Comparative Politics

Censorship Can be Counterproductive: Sensitivity and Media Credibility

Ziyi Wu Author ORCID home | opens in new tab Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Censorship constitutes an important pillar of effective governance in China. By drawing a connection between government censorship and media credibility, this paper addresses the following question: could government censorship be counter-productive by increasing the credibility of political rumors in China? Using a combination of statistical regressions and qualitative interviews, I find mixed evidence on the effectiveness of censorship in China. On one hand, the results suggest that government censorship can unexpectedly increase the credibility of politically sensitive information because people are more likely to believe in a rumor when they think it is more likely to be censored. On the other hand, the results also demonstrate that censorship can increase people's trust in state media over foreign news when it comes to a public crisis, even though citizens understand that the government censors and controls the official media.

Summary of changes from Version 1

Revised several typos. Revised the references to tables and figures in the data section.


Thumbnail image of content item

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of content item
Supplement Material
Pilot survey results, survey questions, interview questions, and acknowledgement


Log in or register with APSA to comment open_in_new
Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy open_in_new – please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here open_in_new .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy open_in_new and Terms of Service open_in_new apply.