Thursday, November 16, 2023
Viola Rothschild and Hongshen Zhu (Duke University, Department of Political Science and University of Pennsylvania, Center for Study of Contemporary China) have posted Never Meet Your Heroes: Community Policing in Contemporary China on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In autocracies, police are tasked with both providing law and order for citizens and monitoring and repressing political opposition for the regime. For ordinary citizens, the local police represent the most common and recognizable face of coercive state power, yet, we have little systematic knowledge about how everyday, street-level policing impacts citizen’s political attitudes and behaviors in modern autocracies. We study these relationships in the context of contemporary China, a high-capacity authoritarian state that, in recent years, has invested heavily in developing its domestic security apparatus. Drawing on literatures that emphasize the physical and spatial dimensions of autocratic power, we propose that citizens living geographically closer to police stations will be both more exposed to, and reminded of, police violence, incompetence, or malfeasance—issues endemic to local policing in many autocratic states. As a result, they will be less likely to trust and participate in community political institutions. Using data from a recent nationally-representative, probability sample survey and highly precise, geo-referenced information on the location of police stations, we find evidence to support our theory: citizens who live closer to police stations (1) feel less safe, (2) express lower levels of trust in community political institutions, and (3) participate less in neighborhood political affairs. Our findings indicate that the growing investment in the physical police state may further exacerbate local information capture and the alienation of citizens from the system.