Punish the Dissidents : The Selective Implementation of Stability Preservation in China

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

11 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-812
Journal / PublicationJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number119
Online published1 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


Authoritarian regimes face a dilemma in punishing dissidents. They need extralegal punishments to ensure social stability, but they also want to legalize punishment decisions to sustain an image of adherence to the rule of law. These contradictory goals present an agency problem: local officials must selectively implement the competing goals of the central government. By analyzing data on 1408 dissidents in China from 2007 to 2014, this article argues that local officials are more likely to select legitimate punishments when they experience stronger pressure for career development and their province has a wealthier local economy. These findings reveal the effects of the principal-agent problem on the dynamics of stability preservation in China and indicate that punishment decisions serve not only the needs of regime survival but also the needs of individual officials. © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.