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Citizen–Media Interaction in China’s Local Participatory Reform: a Contingent Participation Model

Zhuang, Meixi; Zhang, Xiaoling; Morgan, Stephen


Meixi Zhuang

Xiaoling Zhang

Stephen Morgan


Mass media play an important role in grassroots democracy, yet the dynamics of media-citizen interaction remains under-researched. Using the case of “Civil Monitory Organization” (CMO) program in Zhejiang’s Wenzhou city, we show how local media and the local government to whom the local media are held accountable shape citizen participation. We develop the framework of “contingent participation” to analyze the constraints on local political participation. Based on our observation of the CMO activism, we typologize four participation behaviours: (1) symbolic participation, (2) instrumental participation, (3) managed participation, and (4) transgressive participation. We conclude that contingent participation yields paradoxical results inherent under authoritarian rule: it aims to mobilize citizens to solve governance problems, yet denies the free flow of information and full participation of citizens.


Zhuang, M., Zhang, X., & Morgan, S. (2018). Citizen–Media Interaction in China’s Local Participatory Reform: a Contingent Participation Model. Journal of Contemporary China, 27(109), 120-136.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 23, 2017
Online Publication Date Aug 28, 2017
Publication Date Jan 2, 2018
Deposit Date May 9, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 1, 2019
Journal Journal of Contemporary China
Print ISSN 1067-0564
Electronic ISSN 1469-9400
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 109
Pages 120-136
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Contemporary China on 28 August 2017 available online:


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