Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China (Harvard Contemporary China Series)
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Observers often note the glaring contrast between China's stunning economic progress and stalled political reforms. Although sustained growth in GNP has not brought democratization at the national level, this does not mean that the Chinese political system has remained unchanged. At the grassroots level, a number of important reforms have been implemented in the last two decades.
This volume, written by scholars who have undertaken substantial fieldwork in China, explores a range of grassroots efforts--initiated by the state and society alike--intended to restrain arbitrary and corrupt official behavior and enhance the accountability of local authorities. Topics include village and township elections, fiscal reforms, legal aid, media supervision, informal associations, and popular protests. While the authors offer varying assessments of the larger significance of these developments, their case studies point to a more dynamic Chinese political system than is often acknowledged. When placed in historical context--as in the Introduction--we see that reforms in local governance are hardly a new feature of Chinese political statecraft and that the future of these experiments is anything but certain.
with the peasants. Township officials complained that townships can do little except live with the nonpayment and find other ways to meet their quotas. Whether this is really the case, we do not know on the basis of our current research. Local officials elaborating on their predicament say that the situation is becoming worse. They say that those peasants who have been paying their taxes and fees increasingly question whether they too should stop. If their neighbors are getting away with not
provided in preparing not only this book for publication but also many other books in the Harvard Contemporary China Series. She has checked the notes and sources, helped with the editing, and verified information. We are in great debt to Nancy for her tireless efforts toward ensuring the accuracy of our own work and that of so many of our colleagues. For these reasons, we dedicate this book to Nancy. We are grateful as well for the financial support we received from the Project for the Study of
state capacity. Formal Accountability When looking at how state officials are held accountable for their behavior, political scientists tend to look first within the state’s formal organization of institutions such as electoral procedures, bureaucratic regulations, and official codes of conduct. These formal institutions regulate government and keep officials from abusing their power. In general, they fall into two broad categories: top-down bureaucratic institutions and bottom-up democratic
of salutary properties that theorists attribute to them. These associations are also said to inculcate virtuous civic habits of tolerance and participation, build interpersonal ties of trust and reciprocity, recruit political leaders, and cross-cut otherwise destabilizing lines of social conflict. Of these many claims, the state restraint argument is probably among the better supported and more generalizable, as it makes fewer assumptions about groups’ internal workings. But not all voluntary
their negotiations with developers and their dealings with the state (including lawsuits, which they may not have standing to file). At the same time, they are sometimes able to function with a surprising degree of effectiveness. Such groups agitate to be allowed formally to establish a YWH or to democratize one that was created without owner participation. At times they challenge the developer or the PMC on specific substantive matters, for instance, fee scales, quality of service, or shuttle