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The politics of authoritarian empowerment: participatory pricing in China
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2021, 00:00 authored by Xuan Qin, Baogang HeBaogang He
Partial and perceived empowerment in the practice of public hearings, widely spreading across China since the late 1990s and still operating today, is puzzling. Citizens enjoy the right to participation, information, and formal equality but their political empowerment is constrained without the right to elect and dismiss officials there. This article examines the politics of ‘authoritarian empowerment,’ which combines partial empowerment and sophisticated control, and separates psychological empowerment from political empowerment. Through such a delicate combination and separation, citizens are partially empowered, paradoxically, to prevent their full empowerment. Our study is a supplement to the previous study of authoritarian deliberation (consultation) and phantom democracy, discloses the deficiency of the literature on local deliberative democracy in China, and enriches the literature on sophisticated authoritarian innovation in Southeast Asia. The article is based on documented research, interviews with 469 non-participants and 72 participants, and an in-depth case study in Shanghai.