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Tongtong Zhang

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Civil Society, Participatory Institutions, and Authoritarian Rule: The Case of China

Graduate Student Research Fellowship | 2019 - 2020 Academic Year

Authoritarian regimes have created an increasing number of digital channels for citizens to participate in governance and policy formulation. While designed to increase regime support, these "input institutions" may also raise citizen expectations for accountability and democratic governance. This study examines the consequences of using digital participatory institutions for citizens' political attitudes and political participation through analyzing large-scale Weibo posts on government petition accounts in China. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that participatory institutions increase regime support, this research argues that half-hearted "input institutions" hurt authoritarian regime in the long run through decreasing citizen satisfaction and increasing expectation for accountability.


Tongtong Zhang, Department of Political Science

Tongtong Zhang

Tongtong Zhang is a PhD candidate in political science at Stanford University, concentrating on comparative politics and methodology. Her research focuses on participatory institutions and public opinion in authoritarian regime, with a regional focus on China. Zhang's dissertation examines the sources of variation in digital participatory institutions across authoritarian countries, as well as the consequences of these institutions on mass opinion and political participation. Zhang earned a BA in international relations and economics from Peking University, China in 2011 and an MA degree in international affairs from Columbia University in 2014. Before joining the PhD program at Stanford, she worked as an internal auditor at IBM Corporation based in Beijing.

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