Popular Political Support in Urban China
Has the current political system in the People’s Republic of China lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese public? On the basis of three carefully drawn surveys of Beijing residents between 1995 and 1999, the author finds that diffuse support for the current political system—based on attitudes toward institutions and values—remains strong, at least among city-dwellers, though it is gradually declining. Specific support for current political authorities, as measured by evaluations of their performance in major policy domains, is much weaker, with many citizens evaluating the authorities’ performance as mediocre.
In analyzing the longitudinal data presented here, the author finds that the same set of key sociodemographic attributes and sociopolitical orientations variably influence citizens’ attitudes toward the political system and their evaluations of leaders’ performance. Further, the study shows that citizens’ attitudes toward the system, on the one hand, and their evaluation of incumbents’ performance on the other, have different impacts on forms of political participation, such as voting and contacting authorities.
Jie Chen is associate professor of political science and director of the Asian Studies Institute at Old Dominion University.