Voice of the Masses and Responsive Authoritarianism: Evidence from Online Environmental Complaint

Start date

The compliance issues that arise from centralized policy-making and decentralized implementation are core impediments to good governance worldwide, especially in authoritarian settings where local governments do not face citizens at the polls.

This study aims to provide evidence on whether non-state actors can help solve the implementation gap in environmental governance in authoritarian settings. Using data mining technique, we collect China’s online big data on environmental complaints and governments’ responses from Weibo and estimate the influencing factors of governments’ responses.

We then combine regulatory information from local governments and corporate high-frequency monitoring data from the environmental monitoring stations. Based on the comprehensive dataset, we analyze the impact of online environmental complaint on environmental outcomes measured by firm violation, and the channels through which the impact exists.

This project provides government policy recommendations to promote environmental policy design and implementation. Specifically, the proposed project offers an alternative perspective that incorporates the role of the public in the context of environmental authoritarianism. The findings will be directly provided to governments with the evaluation of the effectiveness of open government and open governance in China. This will, on one hand, help China’s next phase of environmental governance modernization, and, on the other hand, provide policy recommendations that incorporate the role of the public in the process of environmental monitoring and policy implementation for other developing countries. These policy recommendations could include providing online channels, enhancing government response, and enhancing public monitoring.

Project status
Financed by
Environment for Development initiative
Project | 10 January 2019