Greitens, S. C. & R. Truex. (forthcoming). "Repressive Experiences in the China Field: New Evidence from Survey Data.” The China Quarterly.

This paper examines the nature of China’s current research climate and its effects on foreign scholarship. Drawing on an original survey of over 500 China scholars, we find that repressive research experiences are a rare but real phenomenon, and collectively present a barrier to the conduct of research in China. Roughly 9% of China scholars report having been “taken for tea” by authorities within the past ten years; 26% of scholars who conduct archival research report being denied access; and 5% of researchers report some difficulty obtaining a visa. The paper provides descriptive information on the nature of these experiences and their determinants. It concludes with a discussion of self-censorship and strategies for conducting research on China.

Truex, R. & D. Tavana (forthcoming). "Implicit Attitudes Towards an Authoritarian Regime." Journal of Politics. 

This study measures Egyptian citizens’ attitudes towards President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi using a Single Category Implicit Association Test (SCIAT). Roughly 58% of respondents hold positive implicit attitudes towards Sisi, which suggests a deeper reservoir of popular support than is conventionally assumed. The data also allows for an investigation of attitude dissociation, whereby individuals hold distinct implicit and explicit attitudes towards a target object. Government employees and Copts are more likely to hold positive explicit attitudes towards Sisi but negative or neutral implicit attitudes. Students appear to systematically engage in inverse dissociation- they voice criticism towards Sisi despite holding more positive implicit attitudes. These findings are interpretable using the Associative-Propositional Evaluation model. The paper closes with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the implicit approach relative to other sensitive question techniques. 

Data and Replication Files

  • Dataverse Replication Files


Truex, R. (forthcoming). "Focal Points, Dissident Calendars, and Preemptive Repression." Journal of Conflict Resolution

This paper explains temporal variation in repression as a function of the "dissident calendar," the set of events that serve as natural focal points for coordination. The core argument is that regimes can anticipate the events that create these focal points and engage in preemptive repression to survive their passing. This dynamic produces predictable, often cyclical patterns in repression. An analysis of dissident detentions in China from 1998 to 2014 shows that "focal events" alone appear to be responsible for more than 20% of dissident detentions over the analysis period. Such detentions tend to be shorter and rely less on formal criminal procedures, suggesting a "catch-and-release" dynamic. Additional analysis of detentions in Tibet shows how the calendar may vary by issue or group. 

Data and Replication Files


Truex, R. (forthcoming). "Authoritarian Gridlock? Understanding Delay in China's Legislative System." Comparative Political Studies. 

Legislative gridlock is often viewed as a uniquely democratic phenomenon. The institutional checks and balances that produce gridlock are absent from authoritarian systems, leading many observers to romanticize "authoritarian efficiency" and policy dynamism. A unique dataset from the Chinese case demonstrates that authoritarian regimes can have trouble passing laws and changing policies- 48% of laws are not passed within the period specified in legislative plans, and about 12% of laws take over ten years to pass. This paper develops a theory that relates variation in legislative outcomes to the absence of division within the ruling coalition and citizen attention shocks. Qualitative analysis of China's Food Safety Law (2009), coupled with shadow case studies of two other laws, illustrate the plausibility of the theoretical mechanisms. Division and public opinion play decisive roles in authoritarian legislative processes.

Data and Replication Files


Truex, R. (2017). "Consultative Authoritarianism and Its Limits." Comparative Political Studies 50(3): 329-361.

Consultative authoritarianism challenges existing conceptions of nondemocratic governance. Citizen participation channels are designed to improve policymaking and increase feelings of regime responsiveness, but how successful are these limited reforms in stemming pressure for broader change? The article develops a new theoretical lens to explain how common citizens perceive the introduction of partially liberalizing reforms and tests the implications using an original survey experiment of Chinese netizens. Respondents randomly exposed to the National People’s Congress’ (NPC) new online participation portals show greater satisfaction with the regime and feelings of government responsiveness, but these effects are limited to less educated, politically excluded citizens.

Data and Replication Files


Truex, R. (2015). "The Myth of the Democratic Advantage." Studies in Comparative International Development: 1-17.  

Existing research points to a democratic advantage in public good provision. Compared to their authoritarian counterparts, democratically-elected leaders face more political competition and must please a larger portion of the population to stay in office. While numerous studies have demonstrated a relationship between regime type and governance outcomes, existing analysis does not adequately explore the full range of plausible models. The paper provides an impartial reevaluation of the empirical record using the techniques of global sensitivity analysis. The results suggest that the emerging consensus is unfounded, and possibly driven by publication bias. Democracy proves to have no systematic association with a range of health and education outcomes, despite an abundance of published empirical and theoretical findings to the contrary. 

Data and Replication Files


Tai, Q. & R. Truex (2015). "Public Opinion towards Return Migration: A Survey Experiment of Chinese Netizens." The China Quarterly 223: 770-786.

China has adopted preferential measures in hopes of luring back overseas talent, but what determines individual attitudes towards returning migrants and policies promoting return migration? The paper addresses this question using an original survey experiment of Chinese netizens. We argue that attitudes towards return migration are driven by two competing perceptions. On one hand, skilled migrants are widely thought to have beneficial effects on the local economy. On the other, domestic citizens may be wary of policies that offer elite returnees exorbitant benefits. The findings imply that the CCP may face a delicate trade off between the economic benefits of return migration and the social costs of heightening inequality.

Data and Replication Files


Truex, R. (2014). “The Returns to Office in a ‘Rubber Stamp’ Parliament.” American Political Science Review 108(2): 235-251.

Are there returns to office in an authoritarian parliament? A new dataset shows that over 500 deputies to China’s National People’s Congress are CEOs of various companies. Entropy balancing is used to construct a weighted portfolio of Chinese companies that matches companies with NPC representation on relevant financial characteristics prior to the 11th Congress (2008–2012). The weighted fixed effect analysis suggests that a seat in the NPC is worth an additional 1.5 percentage points in returns and a 3 to 4 percentage point boost in operating profit margin in a given year. Additional evidence reveals that these rents stem primarily from the “reputation boost” of the position, and not necessarily formal policy influence. These findings confirm the assumptions of several prominent theories of authoritarian politics but suggest the need to further probe the nature of these institutions.

Data and Replication Files

Note: This paper has been replicated by Jens Hainmueller, Jonathan Mummolo, and Yiqing Xu in their paper that develops better tools for using and interpreting multiplicative interaction effects. The core empirical finding on the "returns to office" seems to hold, but the interaction effects on firm size and state-ownership appear less reliable and do not hold up to their recommendations.  Any future citations should not emphasize these conditional results.


Truex, R. (2011). Corruption, Attitudes, and Education: Survey Evidence From Nepal, World Development 39 (7): 1133-1142. 

Social norms can reduce the costs of corrupt behavior and push a society towards a high-corruption equilibrium, but what determines individual attitudes towards corruption? How does acceptance vary across different types of corrupt behavior? An original survey of Kathmandu residents shows substantial variation in attitudes towards different types of corrupt behavior. Overall, respondents generally agreed that large-scale bribery was unacceptable, but there was relative discord over behaviors involving petty corruption, gift giving, and favoritism. Education consistently emerged as the primary determinant of these attitudes, with more educated respondents showing less accepting attitudes across the range of corrupt behaviors. These findings suggest that improving access to education in developing countries may reduce the presence of corruption norms and ultimately corruption itself, although further research is needed to test the strength of these relationships outside of Nepal. 

Data and Replication Files