Institutionalizing from the middle: understanding provincial legislation and grassroots democracy in China

Narisong Huhe, Min Tang

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Nominal democratic institutions under non-democratic regimes vary across countries. This study intends to advance our understanding of such nominal democratic institutions by exploring the role of one aspect of the regime, government hierarchy. Focusing on the village-level democratization in China, we stress the intermediary role of the provincial-level governments in shaping the variant outcomes of grassroots democracy across the country. Through an analysis of a national sample, we find that divergent provincial legislative interpretation of central policies is a key determinant of the access to power and democratic governance of village-level governments. Our finding suggests that authoritarian states can employ various institutions to gather more accurate information, accommodate local variations, contain potential intra-government disagreement and thus maintain regime stability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Comparative International Development
Early online date16 Jul 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2017


  • grassroots democracy
  • provincial legislation
  • China
  • multilevel studies

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