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Despite fundamental political differences between liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes, ordinary citizens in the latter polities also try to influence government policy outcomes. Their participatory behaviors are profoundly affected by the political institutions, especially the party-state. Political parties in both democratic and authoritarian polities also actively target subsets of citizens to get involved in politics, albeit for different purposes.
Since the launch of the reforms more than two decades ago, the Chinese Communist Party has abandoned the Maoist practice of sweeping mobilization of citizens in mass political campaigns. Instead, political mobilization is achieved through the process of careful recruitment of party members. The Party's decision to recruit a citizen (or not) is a strategic choice conditioned on the expected participatory behavior of individual citizens. At the same time, political participation by individual citizens to influence government policy takes into account the Party's recruitment decision. Participation as a recruited or un-recruited citizen are two distinct outcomes that bring different benefits and costs for the individuals involved. In this sense, Party recruitment and citizen participation constitute a pair of interactive decision-making processes. The patterns of political recruitment and participation can be seen as the aggregate outcome of the choices made by the Party and by individual citizens. My research studies whether and how these two political choices are interdependent processes of strategic decision making and explores the effects of important socio-economic factors (such as age, education, and gender) in this interaction.
The dissertation proceeds through multiple methodological approaches. I begin by proposing a new conceptualization of the relationship between Party recruitment and political participation, which establishes an important connection between two thus far separate bodies of literature. I then generate hypotheses about both the Party's and an individual citizen's preferences over different outcomes of recruitment and participation. This incorporates my interviews of Party officials, ordinary Party members, and non-Party masses during my field research in mainland China in 2000-2001. A simple game theory model presents this interaction in a succinct way. It also lays the foundation for the statistical analysis of data from a 1993-94 national survey conducted by Tianjian Shi. To examine the relationship between Party recruitment and citizen participation, the statistical analyses are carried out in four steps. In the first two steps, I show that recruitment and participation respectively are significant predictors in each other's regression equation. In the third step, I differentiate participation by recruited citizens and participation by un-recruited citizens; I find that they are indeed determined by distinct sets of utility components. Finally, I apply a statistical strategic model to test the joint hypotheses. The statistical strategic model is specifically designed for the analysis of data where the existence of strategic elements can render the results of one variant or another of logit or probit problematic.
Political science literature in both comparative and American politics has recognized mobilization by political parties and participation by ordinary citizens as two important political phenomena. My research from different perspectives and approaches demonstrates their inherent linkage as interdependent decision making in the Mainland China context.