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LRCCS Tuesday Lecture Series | The Geography of Political Self-Censorship in an Authoritarian State by Charles Chang and Melanie Manion

Vor Broker Family Professor of Political Science, Duke University
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
11:30 AM-12:30 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
Please note the new time and location for our 2017-18 lecture series.

Authoritarian states generate a culture of self-censorship in political talk. Yet, preference falsification is surely not indifferent to geography. Audience aside, we expect political talk to flow less freely in public spaces than at home, for example. We expect citizens to self-censor their political talk in politicized public places, where features like political monuments, government buildings, and armed forces are conspicuous reminders of the powerful authoritarian state. We introduce a place-based theory that updates, for the internet age, the classic argument about how self-censorship undermines authoritarian states. We construct an innovative and rigorous test of the theory’s implications for citizens in China, by estimating very precisely how and when location in politicized public places impacts choices to engage in political talk in smartphone dispatches. We retrieve and analyze the population of 6.7 million geotagged smartphone dispatches that Beijing netizens posted on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, over a 350-day period in 2014 and 2015. Our research design exploits announcements, in our period of study, of communist party investigations into corruption by the some of China’s highest-ranking officials. Given the explosive political sensitivity of the news releases, the authorities carefully managed their timing. This allows us to identify very precisely the impact, at a time of political stress, of physical space on self-censorship in cyberspace through a difference-in-differences design that compares smartphone political talk at and away from politicized public places 72 hours before and after news of the investigation. We find evidence of significant place-based self-censorship that suggests a remarkable and sophisticated influence of place on political talk in cyberspace.

Melanie Manion is Vor Broker Family Professor of Political Science at Duke University. She studied philosophy and political economy at Peking University in the late 1970s, was trained in Far Eastern studies at McGill University and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and earned her doctorate in political science at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on contemporary authoritarianism, with empirical work on bureaucracy, corruption, information, and representation in China. She is the recipient of numerous research awards, including awards from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and American Council of Learned Societies. Her newest research, in collaboration with Charles Chang, analyzes state management of the social media in China. Her newest book, Information for Autocrats (Cambridge University Press, 2015), examines representation in Chinese local congresses. Previous publications include Retirement of Revolutionaries in China (Princeton University Press, 1993), Corruption by Design (Harvard University Press, 2004), and Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies (edited with Allen Carlson, Mary Gallagher, and Kenneth Lieberthal, Cambridge University Press, 2010). Her articles have appeared in journals including American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, and China Quarterly. She is an award-winning teacher.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, Chinese Studies, Politics
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures