Social Media and Government Responsiveness: Evidence from Vaccine Procurement in China
Dr. Yanhui WU
Associate Director, Institute of Digital Economy and Innovation
HKU Business School
This paper studies whether and how public opinion on social media affects local governments’ procurement of vaccines in China during 2014-2019. We exploit city-level variation in the eruption of social-media opinion on vaccine safety triggered by leaked information on a vaccine scandal, instrumented by the early penetration of social media into each city. We find that governments in cities exposed to stronger information eruption increased the frequency and share of more-transparent procurement. The effect is larger in cities where local officials are ranked lower or have stronger career concerns and where the information environment was more strictly controlled. Interestingly, the effect is muted in a silent real scandal but present in a heated fake scandal. Our findings support that social media enhances the top-down-pressure mechanism in policy implementation in nondemocracies.