Horitarianism relies on a combination of patriotism and legitimacy based on performance rather than ideology. As such, a modern authoritarian government has to allow for some forms of political discussion and participation from which popular consent to authoritarian rule is derived. With 335 million Internet users, 182 million bloggers, and 155 million netizens able to access the Internet through their mobile phones (CNNIC, 2009b), China presents an interesting case to examine public deliberation online. Adapting the concept of authoritarian deliberation (He, 2006a) from an offline environment to an online one, the article proposes four types of online spaces of authoritarian deliberation extending from the core to the peripheries of authoritarian rule: central propaganda spaces, government-regulated commercial spaces, emergent civic spaces, and international deliberative spaces. The paper discusses their characteristics and implications for political participation in China and argues that democracy need not be a precursor to public deliberation. Instead, public deliberation may flourish as a viable alternative to the radical electoral democracy in authoritarian countries like China.
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