Citizens and Democracy: Shi Tianjian's Contribution to China Studies and Political Science

By Wang, Zhengxu; Pavlicevic, Dragan | China: An International Journal, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Citizens and Democracy: Shi Tianjian's Contribution to China Studies and Political Science


Wang, Zhengxu, Pavlicevic, Dragan, China: An International Journal


Shi Tianjian's whole academic career was devoted to the understanding of citizens' values and behaviours in China. With exceptional competence in survey design and analysis, he aimed at explaining how citizens perceive and interact with politics within the Chinese cultural and institutional context. His studies on the Chinese case are at the same time closely integrated with the debates about political culture and institutions. Throughout his career, his work closely engaged concepts and paradigms in comparative political studies as well as general social science. That way, his work provided and continues to provide ample opportunities for scholarly debates and further advancement.

His ultimate concerns were directed to the citizens' perception of their relationship with the authorities. This involved several aspects: 1) what they view as legitimate political arrangements and institutions (legitimacy and political trust); 2) how they view their roles in the political process (political participation); and 3) how they define the division of power between the government and the citizens, and among different types of citizens (democratic values). In these aspects, his views seemed to have evolved since the years he started as a political scientist. Towards the unexpected sudden end of his career, he seemed to have reached a set of conclusions regarding Chinese and East Asian citizens; he found the norms and values of Chinese and East Asian citizens to be drastically different from those in Western societies. Institutional design, therefore, needs to take different forms in these societies, so that they generate genuine support from the citizens, and integrate citizens' participatory energy. His research hence has always led us back to the first question of political science: what is the right political system?

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

Shi's first book, Political Participation in Beijing, set out to address a major deficiency in the field at the time: the lack of understanding of how citizens in China interact with layers and sections of the Chinese government. (1) For what would remain the case throughout his career, Shi challenged some widely held assumptions in this study. Citizens in authoritarian societies were believed to be passive and ignorant towards politics, and Chinese citizens under the one-party regime were thought to be disengaged from politics.

With a questionnaire survey of 757 Beijing residents collected in 1988 and 1989, Shi found that only slightly over 10 per cent of Beijing residents fit this stereotype. (2) In fact, citizens engage in a diverse range of political acts to pursue their interests. He, however, started with a notion that free elections were not available to Chinese citizens, and citizens were not in a position to shape central government policies. Institutional settings, based on the work unit (danwei) system, determined the political actions available at the grassroots level. As work units were bearers of social, economic and political functions, they occupied a central place in citizens' lives. The danwei monopolised the provision of education and health services, allocation of living space, the maintenance of social order and even the arbitration of family disputes, among others. It was at the work unit level that citizens directly experienced policies as they were implemented. It was also at the work unit level that citizens found incentives for taking political actions.

Political participation is thus conceptualised by Shi as "activities by private citizens aimed at influencing the actual results of governmental policy". (3) He identified 28 ways in which Beijing residents act politically, grouping them in seven distinctive modes of participation: voting, campaign activities, appeals, adversarial activities, cronyism, resistance and boycotts. His data showed that due to the structural constraints of the political system, Beijing residents are most likely to resort to appeals, adversarial activities, resistance and cronyism to articulate their interests. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Citizens and Democracy: Shi Tianjian's Contribution to China Studies and Political Science
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.