Internet access in China’s rural areas has substantively changed villagers’ lifestyles and political participation patterns. In the study of political science, scholars have not yet reached agreement as to how internet use affects political participation, but four possibilities recur: internet use tends to promote or inhibit citizens’ participation behaviours; internet has no effect or the effects vary from person to person. Although some studies have highlighted gender differences as a secondary variable in factors such as internet access, length of on-line time, and purpose of Internet use, few have centred on gender analysis, especially in the field of grassroots governance. This article verifies the positive impact of internet use on gender equity in grassroots political participation and reveals its underlying mechanisms. Based on the theory of ″women’s substantive representation″, this research proposes an analytical framework for rural women’s participation in village governance. It raises questions about village affairs as an important component of women’s participation. Drawing on the 2017 China Family Database (CFD) survey data on rural Chinese households, this paper provides empirical evidence of the influence of gender on internet use and villagers’ political participation. Results show that, after controlling the other factors, (1) internet use has a significant positive impact on substantive participation in village governance; (2) the internet has a positive impact on the participation of both male and female internet users in rural areas, which indicates that the virtual community does not exacerbate gender gaps that are present in real life, but promotes women’s representation in a gender-fair way; （3) for rural women of different ages, education level, and working background, internet use is more likely to promote the substantive participation of women aged 36 to 50 years old, with only primary education, who are a part of the workforce and have independent incomes. Since this rising trend does not increase linearly with age and education, this result indicates the profound impact of economic versus demographic characteristics. It also implies that network construction has the potential to promote women's substantive participation in under-developed areas, which often face problems because of the aging population and lack of opportunities to receive higher-education resources. This research also analyses how innovation and popularisation of information technology (IT) is connected with women’s substantive participation in village governance. From the perspective of institutional change, it demonstrates that improvements in women’s participation are driven by technology, and by a dynamic process in which formal and informal institutional factors interact. These factors include: (1) top-level design of the national legal system, which aims to enhance the protection of rural women’s political rights; (2) policy innovation by local governments, which may stimulate rural women to more effectively participate in the decision-making processes of local affairs; (3) village governance transformation, which not only emphasizes rural economic and technological development, but also focuses on rural women’s ability and gender-culture remoulding. These factors jointly push villages towards a focus on women’s needs, expanding the space for their political participation, and recognising the value of women’s participation, especially in the context of village governance where women not only make up the main residential population, but are also more likely to take advantage of communication in the context of a deliberative democracy.
郭夏娟 魏芃. 互联网对农村女性治理参与的影响——基于“中国家庭大数据库”的分析[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2020, 6(4): 38-.
Guo Xiajuan Wei Peng. The Impact of Internet access on Rural Women’s Participation in Governance: Based on an Analysis of the 2017 Chinese Family Database. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2020, 6(4): 38-.