Unequal Demands? Inequality, Nationalism, and Political Reform in China - Meir Alkon

Thursday, Oct 6, 2016
by dsuchens

Unequal Demands? Inequality, Nationalism, and Political Reform in China

6:00 pm Thu, Oct 20, 2016

When does inequality lead to public demand for fundamental reforms of the existing political system? Foundational models in political economy and political science point to the importance of economic inequality in understanding when and how regime change emerges. Yet it remains unclear when citizens come to interpret inequality as a fundamentally political problem, and what role international factors may play. In this paper, Meir Alkon presents evidence from two conjoint survey experiments in China designed to understand the political consequences of inequality, and to test factors that can attenuate demands for political reform. He shows that inequality leads to greater demand for reform of central government corruption; however, deflecting the attribution of inequality to the international economy attenuates these demands. In a second, larger survey experiment, he replicates the finding that inequality leads to greater demand for anti-corruption reform; provide evidence that the effect is inequality-specific, not a general response to poor economic performance; and show that, contrary to prevailing arguments, priming nationalism does not divert from these demands for corruption reform. Finally, to illustrate the mechanisms underlying the inequality-corruption link, he presents results from automated text analyses of respondents' open-ended survey answers. 


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Meir Alkon