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01-06-2011 | Original Paper | Issue 2/2011

Political Behavior 2/2011

Distrust in Government Leaders, Demand for Leadership Change, and Preference for Popular Elections in Rural China

Journal:
Political Behavior > Issue 2/2011
Author:
Lianjiang Li

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between distrust in incumbent government leaders and demand for systemic changes in rural China. It finds that individuals who distrust government leaders’ commitment to the public interest have both stronger demand for leadership change and stronger preference for popular elections. It argues that distrust in government leaders may have enhanced the demand for leadership change, which in turn may have reinforced the preference for elections. It further argues that distrust in incumbent leaders has in effect induced a demand for systemic changes, as introducing popular election of government leaders would require a major constitutional amendment. The paper suggests that two distinctive mechanisms may be at work in determining whether distrust in current government authorities induces preference for systemic changes. Whether citizens can engineer leadership change through existing channels influences the generation of idealistic wishes for a better political system. Perceived availability of better and viable alternatives affects whether idealistic wishes become a practical preference.

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