Grassroots Democracy in China and the Development of Rural Welfare Provision





Published date: 

December, 2011


Yu-tzung Chang
Chen-chia Wu


Social welfare is concerned with the provision of a public good. This paper is concerned with the political logic behind the provision of this public good. It uses empirical data to evaluate the functionalist view in modernization theory, the democracy promotion view in citizenship and social rights theory, and finally the more recent non-institutionalist social capital view. Each of these three theories is concerned with revealing the motivation behind the provision of social welfare. This paper uses data gathered by the 2007-2008 Asian Barometer Survey in 356 villages across China, and attempts to show that there is a positive relationship between grassroots democracy and the provision of social welfare. The exercise of rural democracy helps raise awareness of the rights of individuals, and therefore helps draw greater attention to redistribution through the mechanism of social welfare provision. The statistical results show that in villages that have had a more successful experience of grassroots democracy, the provision of social welfare has been more comprehensive. Adding the social capital variable increases the explanatory power of the whole model, but the influence of local elections remains strong, and continues to have more explanatory power than the social capital variable. Even when we control for the level of economic development, regional differences, and level of education, the influence of local democracy on rural welfare provision remains powerful.