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Policy Experimentation as Communication with the Public: Social Policy, Shared Responsibility, and Regime Support in China

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>China Quarterly
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)400-422
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/09/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Research on policy experimentation has mainly focused on central–local relations; scholars have paid little attention to the interaction between policy experimentation and the public. We argue that policy experimentation can be used by decision makers as an instrument to communicate with the public, facilitating the building of a social consensus regarding controversial policies. We evaluate the effects of the Chinese government’s policy experimentation efforts to promote shared responsibility between the state and individuals for the urban pension system on the public’s regime support. Evidence from two rounds of a nationwide survey conducted before and after the policy experiment indicates that the policy experimentation has significantly contributed to citizens’ acceptance of their individual welfare responsibility. Moreover, the image-building of governmental responsibility via official news, with varied intensity across regions, consolidates the political trust of residents while posing a challenge to local government credibility in the long run.