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PARPCC#16 – 90% of support for the CCP in China – Really ?

PARPCC#16 – 90% of support for the CCP in China – Really ?

One of the surprising elements when we look at opinion surveys on China, and especially those carried out by foreign research centers such as theAsh Center de Harvard, this is the extent to which the Communist Party is supported by the population: support rates often exceed 90%. Until now, researchers have explained this phenomenon by the country's rapid exit from extreme poverty., economic policies supported by the population, etc. New research brushes aside these explanations and highlights a methodological bias in previous surveys which would activate fear of potential reprisals among respondents.

More 90% of favorable opinions, it’s enough to make all the heads of government of democratic regimes green with envy. In our regions, such percentages in authoritarian regimes generate mistrust and mistrust in the media and public opinion (" it's normal, They don’t answer what they want”). However, this Chinese specificity was until now accepted by many members of the scientific community – theAsh Center de Harvard also observed this in its surveys – and was explained by the experts by the support for the open policies pursued for years 1980 to the years 2010 by communist China.

An article published in January 2024 calls this relative consensus into question. Carter, Carter and Schick explain that the opinion survey methodology used – direct questioning of respondents: “do you support the Chinese Communist Party? »; “Would you be willing to participate in a demonstration against the government? », favored responses providing support for the regime. Motivated not by real support, but rather the fear of reprisals.

In effect, in a state where everything is controlled, it is difficult for respondents to think that the anonymization of responses, even administered online, can escape the gaze of the Party. The researchers did two studies a few months apart, asking the questions directly to the respondents first., then using another method of approach that is more indirect and ensures anonymity in a more robust way.

Despite similar questions, the numbers don't lie: the study using direct questioning overestimates support for the health regime 28.5 percentage points compared to the study using an indirect and anonymous approach. This very significant gap confirms a methodological weakness already noted ina similar study carried out in Russia (14 percentage points difference).

For the authors, the support shown by 90% to Chinese elites is therefore more a methodological bias than real support. They estimate that the real rate of support for the regime is rather between 50 et 70% (which remains high if we compare with the rates observed in many democracies).

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The study also shows that 3 characteristics are positively correlated with stronger than average support for the Party: non-Han ethnicity, CCP membership and education level. For ethnicity, the authors explain that non-Han ethnic groups having more direct experience of repression, they are more likely to adopt a discourse allowing them to escape this repression than people of Han ethnicity. CCP members, them, are favored by the regime, and therefore support it more than other groups. Finally, the level of education would be, in China, correlated with a higher degree of support for the regime because the more educated a person is, the longer she was subjected to Party propaganda.

Reference: Carter, E.B.; Carter, B.L.; Schick, S. (2024), « Do Chinese Citizens Conceal Opposition to the CCP in Surveys?” Evidence From two Experiments?”, The China Quarterly, pp.1-10.

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