Dr. Jing Chen's book. “Useful Complaints: How Petitions Assist Decentralized Authoritarianism in China”

Hartwick’s Chen Releases Book on Government in China

September 20, 2016

Assistant Professor of Political Science Jing Chen, Ph.D., has published a new book on how the public petition system aids the governmental process in China. “Useful Complaints: How Petitions Assist Decentralized Authoritarianism in China” describes how citizen complaints become, according to publisher Lexington Books (an imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.), “very useful tools for regime maintenance.”

Supported by a mix of case studies and statistical analysis of field data, Chen outlines the benefits of the petition system to the Chinese Communist Party.

Local governments are more knowledgeable than the central government. Studying citizens’ petitions (complaints) alleviates this information imbalance, and allows the Chinese central government to evaluate and more effectively manage local officials. Information from petitions also allows the central government to determine issues at their earliest, and adopt change in central policy, and therefore help maintain social order. Further, by addressing complaints, the government can present itself as the ally of citizens.

“The rise of China has been one of the most important events in world history since the 1990s,” Chen said. “By rising as a global power, instead of following the fate of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, China defied many theoretical and empirical predictions of its possible failure. The book explores the institutional reasons behind the success of the Chinese state to counter the usual threats such as corruption and the dictator’s dilemma faced by a decentralized authoritarian regime.

“I find that a key institution, the petition system, provides the Chinese state with an information edge in its power game with citizens and local officials. Readers who are interested in China, authoritarian politics, central-local relations, and information politics will enjoy reading the book,” she added.

Chen received her B.A. in international politics from Peking University, China, and her Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University. In addition to her research on the petition system and decentralized authoritarianism in China, she has also published on a variety of topics, such as China’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping and China’s policy toward Japanese war criminals.

At Hartwick, she teaches courses on comparative politics and international relations with a focus on East Asia and other developing countries.

“Useful Complaints: How Petitions Assist Decentralized Authoritarianism in China” is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

For more information on the book, contact Chen at 607-431-4932 or chenj@hartwick.edu.