You are here

The Internet, Political Participation, and Governance Reform in China

The Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Institute for International Economic Policy presents a talk by Steven Balla.

October 22, 2014 12:30pm to 1:45pm

One of the highest priorities of the current generation of Chinese leaders is improving the government’s performance along a number of crucial dimensions, such as reducing corruption among public officials and protecting social welfare and the environment. One of the main instruments of governance reform is providing citizens with enhanced opportunities to participate in public decision making. This talk will examine the operation of online consultation, a process through which government officials utilize the Internet to provide citizens with opportunities to offer feedback on draft laws and regulations. The talk will primarily focus on the case of health system reform, a highly salient application of online consultation carried out by the Chinese central government. Drawing off of an original survey of citizen participants and content analysis of feedback submitted in response to a draft health system reform, the talk will advance the argument that online consultation holds promise as an instrument of governance reform. Although online consultation does not represent a movement toward Western-style democracy, it facilitates the evolution of communication between government decision makers and societal elites in contexts where the boundaries of consultation and opportunities for influence are carefully proscribed.

Steven J. Balla is Associate Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Public Administration, and International Affairs at The George Washington University, where he is also a Research Affiliate at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, Senior Scholar at the Regulatory Studies Center, and  faculty member at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies.  His research focuses on public involvement in the policymaking process, with an emphasis on the impacts (if any) the Internet is having on communications between state and civil society during the development of draft laws and regulations.  Broadly speaking, what are the implications of information disclosure and public participation governance reforms for stability and change in the Chinese political system?  His research has been published in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Contemporary ChinaJournal of Current Chinese Affairs, and China Information.  He has served as a Fulbright Scholar in the Peking University School of Government, where he has also been a visiting scholar at the Leo Koguan Institute of Business and Government.