Context: Over the last two decades a growing body of research has shown that authoritarian regimes are trying to increase their legitimacy by providing public goods. But there has so far been very little research on whether or not these regimes are successful.
Methods: This article analyzes data from a 2012–2013 nationally representative survey in China to examine whether health care provision bolsters the Communist regime's legitimacy. Using multivariate ordinal logistic regression, we test whether having public health insurance and being satisfied with the health care system are associated with separate measures of the People's Republic of China's regime legitimacy: support for “our form of government” (which we call “system support”) and political trust.
Findings: Having public health insurance is positively associated with trust in the Chinese central government. Health care system satisfaction is positively associated with system support and trust in local government.
Conclusions: Health care provision may bolster the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes, with the clearest evidence showing that concrete benefits may translate into trust in the central government. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between trends in health care provision and legitimacy over time and in other types of authoritarian regime.