Clientelism and political participation: Case study of the Chinese tongxianghui in Macao SAR elections

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This paper investigates the close connections between Chinese tongxianghui (Chinese native-place association) and electoral politics in Macao SAR Legislative Assembly’s direct elections. The findings show that the Chinese tongxianghui in Macao SAR adopt clientelist politics based on cultural affinities during the electoral politics in gaining their client-voter supports for the direct elections in 2009 and 2013. The nature of clientelist relationships, such as interest maximizing exchange, reciprocity and iteration, building up long term and stable relationships, are different from the electoral campaigns in Western liberal democracies which are usually center on ideological lines and occasional exchanges which are arguably too random and too anonymous. In essence, this study argues that Chinese tongxianghui in Macao SAR, notably the Fujian Jinjiang tongxianghui and Guangdong Jiangmen tongxianghui, constitute powerful electoral engineering with affiliated interest groups and they have built up stable and long term clientelist relations with their clients, instead of waging electoral battles on ideological lines. Thus, this study contends that Macao’s direct elections represent a unique case study about participation of Chinese tongxianghui in electoral politics which can be characterized as a form of local-level, cumulative and low political-risk clientelism which could be more effective than ideological politics. Copyright © 2016 Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-392
JournalJournal of Chinese Political Science
Issue number3
Early online dateApr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016



Chong, E. K.-m. (2016). Clientelism and political participation: Case study of the Chinese tongxianghui in Macao SAR elections. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 21(3), 371-392.


  • Clientelism
  • Chinese tongxianghui
  • Electoral Politics
  • Macao SAR