Citizen-media interaction in China’s local participatory reform: A contingent participation model

Meixi Zhuang*, Xiaoling Zhang, Stephen L. Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Mass media play an important role in grassroots democracy, yet the dynamics of media-citizen interaction remains under-researched. Using the case of the ‘Civil Monitory Organization’ (CMO) programme in Zhejiang’s Wenzhou city, this article shows how local media, and the local government to whom the local media are held accountable, shape citizen participation. This article develops the framework of ‘contingent participation’ to analyze the constraints on local political participation. Based on the observation of CMO activism, this article typologizes four participation behaviours: (1) symbolic participation; (2) instrumental participation; (3) managed participation; and (4) transgressive participation. This article concludes that contingent participation yields paradoxical results inherent under authoritarian rule: it aims to mobilize citizens to hold government accountable, yet denies the free flow of information and full participation of citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-136
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number109
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

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