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Online Consultation and Governance Reform in Chinese Ministries and Provinces

December 07, 2016 by Steven J. Balla, Yuhan Wu

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This research examines the conditions under which Chinese central government ministries and provincial governments implement online consultation, a prominent instrument of governance reform in which officials provide interested parties with opportunities to offer feedback on proposed public policies. The research assembles original data regarding the online consultation practices of more than one hundred central government ministries and provincial governments. The analysis demonstrates that online consultation practices are more developed in provincial governments than central government ministries. Across organizational contexts, online consultation is more advanced in the disclosure of proposed policies than in the circulation of feedback submitted in response to draft laws and regulations. Finally, online consultation is primarily utilized by organizations with substantial resources, as well as organizations operating in environments not characterized by fundamental political sensitivities. These results are consistent with the expectation that although online consultation increases information disclosure and public participation in government decision making, such reforms are indicative not of the end of authoritarianism but rather the resilience of the Chinese Communist Party.