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Elite Competition, Local Extraction, and Social Unrest: Understanding Mass Protest in Authoritarian Regimes

Liu, Howard (2021) 'Elite Competition, Local Extraction, and Social Unrest: Understanding Mass Protest in Authoritarian Regimes.' Journal of Global Security Studies, 6 (3). ISSN 2057-3189

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Why do we observe mass protest in authoritarian regimes? How can we explain subnational variation within a country? This study provides an institutional approach to explain mass protest in nondemocracies. I propose that the pattern of social protest reflects the intensity of subnational elite competition within authoritarian institutions. In China, the cadre promotion system incentivizes local elites to compete in the fiscal and economic field by extracting local resources, and these efforts often trigger local protest. Using a protest dataset that records large-scale local resistance from China, I find that Chinese social protest is associated with local elite competition in a nonlinear pattern. A rising intensity in local competition encourages greater extraction efforts and triggers more resistance; however, intensified competition does not lead to excessive extraction because officials fear that too much social instability could hurt their careers. I also find that land expropriation by local governments becomes the main extractive mechanism that triggers social grievance in contemporary China. These findings highlight the important role of competitive local politics and how it shapes the subnational variation of protest in authoritarian regimes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: protests, local elite competition, land expropriation, authoritarian politics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2020 12:30
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:19

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