Online Consultation and the Institutionalization of Transparency and Participation in Chinese Policymaking

May 26, 2020

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This article examines the institutionalization of online consultation, a prominent instrument of governance reform in contemporary China in which government organizations make public draft laws and regulations and solicit input from interested parties prior to finalizing decisions. The article specifically analyses the extent to which online consultation is a durable governance reform that enhances transparency and participation in policymaking. The analysis focuses on the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and Guangzhou Municipal Government (GMG), leading organizations in the implementation of online consultation. Through the analysis of original datasets consisting of hundreds of policies proposed by the MOC and GMG and thousands of comments submitted in response to these drafts, the article demonstrates that online consultation has institutionalized government transparency but has not consistently enhanced public participation. Although online consultation has the potential to transform policymaking, the evidence suggests that strong confidence in this possibility is not warranted.