Unequal Demands? How the Attribution of Inequality Affects Political Demands in China (under review)
Abstract: When does inequality lead to political demands? Economic inequality is a key explanatory variable in many political science theories. However, it is unclear how the public comes to view inequality as a political problem. I present evidence from two experiments in China that examine how priming inequality affects political demands, and whether attributing inequality to different causes attenuates these demands. Results show that respondents link inequality to the central government and that priming inequality increases demands for reforming central government corruption. However, attributing inequality to the global economy attenuates these demands. A second experiment replicates these findings, shows that the effects are inequality-specific, and provides evidence that attribution is distinct from displacement. Finally, I illustrate causal mechanisms with analysis of open-ended responses from a third experimental population. The results have implications for understanding public perceptions of inequality, both generally and in contemporary China.
Authoritarian Environmental Federalism (under review)
Meir Alkon and Audrye Wong
Abstract: We develop a theory to explain the persistence of tensions between decentralized delegation and centralized control of environmental governance in authoritarian regimes. Benefits of decentralization – information, competition, and economic efficiency – conflict with goals of policy harmonization and management of inter-jurisdictional externalities. These persistent tensions between different levels of governance generate a de facto federalism, distinct from traditional models of formally-defined, de jure power-sharing. We test our theory of authoritarian environmental federalism using the case of China's power sector, drawing on evidence from primary source documents, field interviews, and multiple data sources on the development and distribution of generating capacity. The trajectories of coal-fired power and renewables integration into China's power sector have substantial implications for both domestic air pollution and for global climate change. This research has theoretical relevance for understanding environmental politics and governance in autocracies, and practical relevance for understanding China's environmental and energy policies.
Sustainability Implications of Coal-Fired Power Plants Financed Through China’s Belt and Road Initiative (R&R at Energy Policy)
Meir Alkon, Xiaogang He, Aubrey R. Paris, Wenying Liao, Thomas Hodson, Niko Wanders, Yaoping Wang
Abstract: As the world’s largest proposed infrastructure program, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will have significant implications for global sustainability and the future of energy generation in Asia. Pakistan, a keystone of BRI, presents an ideal case for assessing the impacts of BRI’s energy financing on sustainable development. We estimate the future water demands of seven new Chinese-financed, coal-fired power plants in Pakistan with a total capacity of 6600 MW. While these facilities may help address Pakistan’s energy shortages, our results indicate that by 2055, climate change-induced water stress in Pakistan will increase by 36–92% compared to current levels, and the power plants’ new water demands will amount to ~79.60 million m3. Our findings highlight the need for China and BRI destination countries to integrate resilience and sustainability efforts into infrastructure planning. Policy recommendations are offered to permit both sustainable development and responsible water resource management.
Local Sociotropism: How Community Variation in Trade Exposure Affects Voter Demands
Abstract: Recent research demonstrates the electoral importance of trade-induced employment loss for determining voting in presidential elections. Voters respond to localized job losses by punishing the incumbent. However, the mechanism underlying these effects remain unclear. What explains these large, localized electoral effects? I develop a theory of local sociotropism, in which individual's identification with their local community catalyzes a feeling of community threat from trade and lowers sociotropic assessments of trade's overall effects and of economic growth overall. I test this theory using data from an original survey of 1,780 respondents. Using data on the share of manufacturing jobs lost to rising imports (the so-called ``China Shock''), my analyses show that respondents living in areas with more job losses due to trade are less likely to believe that trade has been good for the country, less likely to favor trade, to have lower subjective perceptions of economic trajectory, and also to be more likely to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. I also show that priming respondents with information about different government compensation programs has no effect on their attitudes towards trade or their assessments of government performance. Finally, I detail the next steps in this research project, using data on job losses, 2016 county-level vote returns, and the 2016 American National Election Survey (ANES). Using this nationally representative survey data, with questions that are identical to those used in the survey above, I test for local sociotropism and assess the relationship holds between local sociotropism and 2016 presidential voting.