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Jennifer Pan on China's Social Assistance

Jennifer Pan examines how China's major social assistance program, Dibao, has been used to quell dissent.
January 28, 2021
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What are the costs of the Chinese regime's fixation on quelling dissent in the name of political order, or "stability?" In Welfare for Autocrats, Jennifer Pan shows that China has reshaped its major social assistance program, Dibao, around this preoccupation, turning an effort to alleviate poverty into a tool of surveillance and repression. This distortion of Dibao damages perceptions of government competence and legitimacy and can trigger unrest among those denied benefits. Pan traces how China's approach to enforcing order transformed at the turn of the 21st century and identifies a phenomenon she calls seepage whereby one policy--in this case, quelling dissent--alters the allocation of resources and goals of unrelated areas of government. Using novel datasets and a variety of methodologies, Welfare for Autocrats challenges the view that concessions and repression are distinct strategies and departs from the assumption that all tools of repression were originally designed as such. Pan reaches the startling conclusion that China's preoccupation with order not only comes at great human cost but in the case of Dibao may well backfire.

The book is available to purchase through Oxford Univeristy Press.

 

Video is also available on our YouTube channel.

About the Author

Jennifer Pan is an Assistant Professor of Communication, and an Assistant Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science and Sociology at Stanford University. The intersection of political communication and authoritarian politics is the flash point for conflict in numerous places around the world. Her research resides at this intersection, showing how authoritarian governments try to control society, how the public responds, and when and why each is successful. Her work has appeared in peer reviewed publications such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, and Science.

Pan received her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Department of Government in 2015. She graduated from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 2004, and until 2009, she was a consultant at McKinsey & Company based in New York and Beijing. Jennifer has also worked for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative.

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