Mike Bloomberg said China isn’t a dictatorship. Is he right?

The Communist Party does listen to the people — sometimes

The Washington Post
Date: Dec. 4, 2019
By: Dimitar Gueorguiev 

Chinese President Xi Jinping listens to Russia’s security council secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. (Noel Celis/AP)

Earlier this fall, Mike Bloomberg said that Chinese President Xi Jinping is “not a dictator,” and that the long-ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “listens to the public.”

Now that the former mayor has entered the presidential contest, comments like this are coming back to haunt him. But does Bloomberg have a point? Here’s what you need to know.

China’s CCP does listen to the people — as long as they aren’t independent-minded

Bloomberg is right in one regard. The CCP has a big stake in learning what the Chinese public thinks and providing some of what it wants. The government encourages Chinese citizens to monitor local officials, file complaints and even provide input in policy planning. In a recent book on Chinese governance, my co-authors and I document how these limited forms of public engagement can help reduce corruption and improve compliance with regulations.

Other studies confirm that the Chinese government desires some measure of civil society, and is surprisingly receptive to public input — and even some well-intentioned criticism. In return, an abundance of research demonstrates the CCP continues to enjoy broad support and legitimacy among the Chinese public.

Why the NBA and other companies struggle to push back against Chinese censorship

At the same time, the CCP is uncomfortable with having the Chinese people think, feel or act for themselves. Pervasive government censorship and targeted repression are symptoms of the leadership’s deep-seated insecurity. Naturally, it is harder for the regime to engage and understand the public if it limits what the public can say.

But Beijing is getting better at figuring out what the Chinese people are saying and thinking. In a current book manuscript, I show how technology helps the government see and understand what the Chinese public wants — in a controlled manner. While the system underpinning this technology is dystopian, it helps the regime harness and optimize competing public interests when making policy.    [FULL  STORY]

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