Does Legality Produce Political Legitimacy? An Experimental Approach

66 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2021

See all articles by Yiqin Fu

Yiqin Fu

Stanford University

Yiqing Xu

Stanford University

Taisu Zhang

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: November 18, 2021

Abstract

This article studies whether “pure” legality, stripped of the normative components that are conceptually necessary for “the rule of law,” can convey meaningful amounts of perceived legitimacy to governmental institutions and activity. Through a survey experiment conducted among urban Chinese residents, it examines whether such conveyance is possible under current Chinese sociopolitical conditions, in which the Party-state continues to invest heavily in “pure legality,” but without imposing meaningful legal checks on the Party leadership’s political power, and without corresponding investment in substantive civil rights or socioeconomic freedoms. Among survey respondents, government investment in legality conveys meaningful amounts of political legitimacy, even when it is applied to actions, such as online speech censorship, that are socially controversial or unattractive, and even when such investment does not clearly enhance the predictability of state behavior. However, the legitimacy-enhancing effects of legality are likely weaker than those of state investment in procedural justice.

Keywords: legality, political legitimacy, rule of law, procedural justice, Chinese politics

JEL Classification: P26, K40

Suggested Citation

Fu, Yiqin and Xu, Yiqing and Zhang, Taisu, Does Legality Produce Political Legitimacy? An Experimental Approach (November 18, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3966711 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3966711

Yiqin Fu

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Yiqing Xu

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://yiqingxu.org

Taisu Zhang (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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