This article applies Distelhorst and Fu’s (2019) typology of citizenship performances to an original sample of 200 online Mayor’s Mailbox letters to examine how scripts of citizenship differ between richer and poorer areas of China. Using a mixed-methods approach, I find that letters in more developed areas are significantly less likely to present the writer as a submissive subject, but no more likely to frame complaints in terms of rights and legality. I also find that many letter writers behave as “constructive citizens” by stressing their interest in helping the authorities improve local governance. These findings challenge linear understandings of the value shift that follows development, and suggest that the focus on contention in the literature on citizenship under authoritarianism overlooks other, more cooperative forms of political participation in consolidated autocracies.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.