Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Political Science

First Advisor

Tang, Wenfang

First Committee Member

Reisinger, William M.

Second Committee Member

Solt, Frederick

Third Committee Member

Rocha, Rene

Fourth Committee Member

Ho, Alfred T.


What determines governance quality in authoritarian settings? The existing literature on governance concentrates on democratic governance and provides no ready answer. By focusing on the world’s largest authoritarian country, China, this study delineates an authoritarian model of governance quality. In the model, I argue that in order for good governance to occur, an authoritarian government must have both the ability and the desire to govern well, and the current authoritarian government in China has both. Specifically, its ability to govern well comes from 1) its sovereignty within the territory, 2) its fiscal resources, and 3) its party-state structure blended with decentralization, term and age limits, and performance-based promotion. Its desire to govern well comes from 1) the regime’s need for political legitimacy; 2) good governance as an important source of political legitimacy; 3) the decay of alternative sources of legitimacy; 4) the double uncertainty of authoritarian politics that compels leaders to highly active in delivering good governance. I formulate key hypotheses and test them with a variety of original datasets. The Chinese County Governance Data are collected from county government websites. The data on county-level public opinion are constructed through Multilevel Regression and Poststratification (MRP) based on the 2010 Chinese General Social Survey and the 2000 national census data. County leader characteristics are collected from Database of Local Officials. The empirical analysis general supports the model. My study reveals an authoritarian logic of governance which centers on the party state’s top-down control and the regime’s insecurity about political legitimacy. My study also demonstrates that China’s model of governance is not shared by most authoritarian countries today.


authoritarian politics, China, democratic theory, governance, local politics


viii, 116 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 105-116).


Copyright 2016 Yingnan Joseph Zhou