Thursday, January 28 at 4:00pm to 5:15pm
What are the costs of the Chinese regime’s fixation on quelling dissent in the name of political order, or “stability?” In Welfare for Autocrats, Jennifer Pan shows that China has reshaped its major social assistance program, Dibao, around this preoccupation, turning an effort to alleviate poverty into a tool of surveillance and repression. This distortion of Dibao damages perceptions of government competence and legitimacy and can trigger unrest among those denied benefits. Pan traces how China’s approach to enforcing order transformed at the turn of the 21st century and identifies a phenomenon she calls seepage whereby one policy — in this case, quelling dissent — alters the allocation of resources and goals of unrelated areas of government. Using novel datasets and a variety of methodologies, Welfare for Autocrats challenges the view that concessions and repression are distinct strategies and departs from the assumption that all tools of repression were originally designed as such. Pan reaches the startling conclusion that China’s preoccupation with order not only comes at great human cost but in the case of Dibao may well backfire.