Principal-Agent Dilemma in China’s Social Media Sector? The Party-State and Industry Real-Name Registration Waltz

Johan Lagerkvist


Since the late 1990s, the Chinese party-state has increasingly delegated responsibility from the bureaucracy to new media companies across the spectrum of the ICT business sector to monitor deviant user behavior. This article argues that businesses comply with the party-state’s control policies only conditionally and analyzes a specific principal-agent dilemma embedded into state regulation and the policy implementation chain of social control. It contends that the party-state has only temporarily solved this dilemma by maintaining the risk of sanctions for the industry while rewarding compliant businesses with policy rewards. The analysis finds that emerging cracks in cadre-capitalist cooperation are contingent on the state’s continued negotiations on policy.

Full Text: