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Creating democratic citizens? The political effects of the Internet in China

Huhe, Narisong and Tang, Min and Chen, Jie (2018) Creating democratic citizens? The political effects of the Internet in China. Political Research Quarterly. ISSN 1065-9129

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    This study explores the perplexing role of the Internet in authoritarian settings. We disentangle the political impact of the Internet along two distinct dimensions, indirect effects and direct effects. While the direct effects of the exposure to the Internet shape political attitudes in a manifest and immediate way, the indirect effects shape various political outcomes via instilling fundamental democratic orientations among citizens. In authoritarian societies such as China, we argue the indirect effects of the Internet as a value changer tend to be potent, transformative and persistent. But the direct effects of the Internet as a mere alternative messenger are likely to be markedly contingent. Relying on the newly developed method of causal mediation analysis and applying the method to data from a recent survey conducted in Beijing, we find strong empirical evidence to support our argument on the two-dimensional impacts of the Internet on authoritarian nations.