China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Strong authoritarian regimes such as that in contemporary China are not just maintaining their rule through suppression and tight control over its population. They undertake serious efforts to legitimize authoritarian rule, thus making authoritarianism a more justified and even popular form of government. This panel assembles four articles by political scientists and communication scholars to explore the theme of authoritarian legitimation. Among these panelists, Ashley Esarey examines the state's normative impulses for controlling information related to societal morals and “low culture,” as a means of shoring up popular support and demonstrating its right to rule. Rongbin Han studies how time-traveling novels help to legitimize authoritarian rule by promulgating pro-state ideas and state-approved values. Kecheng Fang examines the ways in which the party-state uses “foreign experts” to endorse its rule and policies. Jonathan Hassid, looking instead at sources of authoritarian delegitimation, investigates the staying power of subnational identity, which could undermine the state’s capacity to use patriotism as a source of authoritarian legitimation. These four papers together illustrate how the Chinese party-state innovates in the realm of authoritarian governance as well as indicates potential sources of resistance.