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Protest in China and Hong Kong

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)

Hosted By: Association for Comparative Economic Studies
  • Chair: Noam Yuchtman, London School of Economics

A Unified Theory of Protests, Small and Large: Protests as Public Goods Games in Hong Kong’s Democratic Movement

Noam Yuchtman
,
London School of Economics
Davide Cantoni
,
University of Munich
Louis-Jonas Heizlsperger
,
University of Munich
David Y. Yang
,
Harvard University
Jane Y. Zhang
,
University of New South Wales

Abstract

We study the transformation of Hong Kong’s ongoing democratic movement from a sequence of modest protests (around 50,000 participants) to an explosive, mass protest (over 1,000,000 participants). Such a transformation could be a result of preference falsification and strategic complementarity in protest participation (Kuran, 1989): mass protests may arise as a result of a sharp change in beliefs about others’ support for the protest’s aims and beliefs that others will participate. We collect rich data on Hong Kong university students from 2016-2019, eliciting their protest participation in years when protests were small (2016-2018) and massive (2019). We also elicit a broad range of preferences and beliefs that are central to Kuran’s (1989) model of protest participation, allowing us to provide the first systematic test of the model. We find patterns in the data strikingly at odds with the model’s predictions: (i) there is little evidence of preference falsification prior to 2019 or a change in willingness to reveal preferences in 2019; (ii) participants in protests in 2019 (as well as other years) are more pessimistic about others’ support for the movement, at odds with a game of strategic complements; (iii) participants in 2019 are, if anything, more ideologically extreme than participants in earlier years, at odds with a model in which only extreme types are willing to protest when protests are (expected to be) small. We provide an alternative model of Hong Kong’s protests, arguing that they were public goods games exhibiting strategic substitutability throughout the 2016-2019 period. We provide a range of empirical evidence consistent with this unified model. Our results suggest that sharp changes in political movements may arise not from shifts in beliefs, but from critical junctures in which the value of a political public good increases.

Preferences for Government Concessions Amid Protests and Repression: Experimental Evidence from Hong Kong’s Anti-ELAB Movement and National Security Law

Hans H. Tung
,
National Taiwan University
Daiki Kishishita
,
Tokyo University of Science
Ming-Jen Lin
,
National Taiwan University

Abstract

This study tries to leverage Hong Kong's recent Anti-ELAB (Extradition Law Amendment Bill) Movement and National Security Law (NSL) to test various critical theoretical propositions in the political economy literature by conducting two survey experiments right before and after the passage of the NSL. First of all, we provide a test of the Acemoglu-Robinson commitment problem thesis. Second, we also test a series of hypotheses from an information cascade model of protest developed by Kishishita, Takagi, and Tung (2019). First and foremost, (i) our experiments confirm that, given one’s knowledge of others’ rejections of a concession, an even more generous concession actually leads to a higher chance of its rejection, instead of acceptance, by him/her. Furthermore, (ii) we also confirm yet another counterintuitive hypothesis that, as the stake of the status quo goes up, it is less, instead of more, likely for people with an exit option to tap into the option. Third, (iii) we find that a higher level of punishment brought by the NSL led people with a high protest expectation to prefer the attribute with the highest level of concession in each reform category. The pattern is right the opposite in the group with a low protest expectation. Finally, for robustness, comparing the experimental results based on the newly KNN(K-Nearest Neighbor)-generated classification to the original ones shows no substantial differences that would overturn our aforementioned findings.

Citizen Participation, Bureaucratic Incentive, and Government Accountability: Evidence from 7 Million Citizen Appeals in Beijing

Bo Li
,
Tsinghua University
Tianguang Meng
,
Tsinghua University
Shaoda Wang
,
University of Chicago

Abstract

Since 2014, the Beijing government has been hosting an official hotline named “12345”, which receives citizen appeals regarding any local governance matter, such as public good provision, law enforcement, policy inquiry, and social assistance distribution. Each of Beijing’s 333 subdistricts is responsible for responding to citizen appeals within its jurisdiction, with citizen satisfaction explicitly linked to the promotion of the subdistrict officials. In 2018, the Beijing government launched an additional reform on a random half of its subdistricts, which substantially empowered the subdistrict officials to make them more responsive to citizen appeals. In this project, we access detailed data on more than 7 million “12345” appeals filed between 2014 and 2019, which allows us to observe the needs of citizens across the entire income spectrum, as well as the extent to which these needs get satisfied under changing incentive structures for local bureaucrats. Linking the citizen appeals data to detailed project-level information on fiscal expenditure, we can further investigate the channels through which citizen needs translate into governance outcomes.

The Policy Cost of Nationalism: Evidence from Anti-Japan Protests in China

Yanhui Wu
,
University of Hong Kong
Linke Hou
,
Shandong University

Abstract

This paper studies whether anti-Japan protests in China lead to a clash between the Chinese government’s political goal to enhance regime stability and its policy goal to attract foreign investment. We assemble a unique dataset combining detailed information about both online and offline anti-Japan activism, historical records of Sino-Japan conflicts, and a randomized auditing study on local governments’ attitude towards Japanese investors. We find that governments in counties experiencing stronger Sino-Japan conflicts historically are less responsive to Japanese investors (relative to other foreign investors). Although anti-Japan activism in recent years does not affect local governments’ attitude towards Japanese investors, it deters the entry of Japanese investment. These findings suggest that, despite local officials’ strategic reaction, the political use of nationalism can bear a policy cost of hindering local development.
JEL Classifications
  • D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
  • P2 - Socialist Systems and Transitional Economies