Prayers, Votes and Money: The Impact of Religions on Rural Political Participation in China

In-person event only. Mandarin presentation, bilingual PPT.

The impact of religion on political participation in rural China has not been fully explored. Based on national survey data, this study finds that the number of religious believers is proportional to the number of voters in Chinese villages. Consistent with the club theory, religious groups in the Chinese countryside affect voter turnout through expected pivotality, informational transmission and monetary distribution. In particular, this study provides evidence of local capture by religious groups – an individual believer is significantly more likely to receive poverty-targeting subsidies in a village with a large number of religious believers. The author also argues that the emergence of religions in rural China could be traced to the breakdown of social security in Chinese countryside since the installation of the household responsibility system in the 1970s.

Pinghan Liang is a Professor at the School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University.