Uncrowned Kings with Shackles On: Negative Media Shock and Political Turnover in China


This paper examines whether the media under server government control still could carry out the function of government accountability. We measure the capacity of accountability by the effect of media coverage on the political turnover of local cadres in China. In specific, we are using the number of deaths in a coal mine accident and its relative newspaper coverage to proxy for the severity of the case itself and its social influence. We find that media exposure of safety accidents decreases the possibility of cadres’ turnover. This effect is more substantial when the news reports come from the media out of the cadres’ control. Our finding suggested there is remaining space of accountability, even for the most censored media. We also proposed the hierarchical structure of media control system creates considerable discretion for media, which, though limited, makes it a non-ignorable power in China’s promotion system.

Working Paper