Patronage and Power: Local State Networks and Party-State Resilience in Rural China

Patronage and Power: Local State Networks and Party-State Resilience in Rural China

Ben Hillman

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 0804789363

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Power and Patronage examines the unwritten rules and inner workings of contemporary China's local politics and government. It exposes how these rules have helped to keep the one-Party state together during decades of tumultuous political, social, and economic change.

While many observers of Chinese politics have recognized the importance of informal institutions, this book explains how informal local groups actually operate, paying special attention to the role of patronage networks in political decision-making, political competition, and official corruption. While patronage networks are often seen as a parasite on the formal institutions of state, Hillman shows that patronage politics actually help China's political system function. In a system characterized by fragmented authority, personal power relations, and bureaucratic indiscipline, patronage networks play a critical role in facilitating policy coordination and bureaucratic bargaining. They also help to regulate political competition within the state, which reduces the potential for open conflict. Understanding patronage networks is essential for understanding the resilience of the Chinese state through decades of change.

Power and Patronage is filled with rich and fascinating accounts of the machinations of patronage networks and their role in the ruthless and sometimes violent competition for political power.

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stiff opposition from Gede’s village head, who was the head of the township’s largest kinship network and a rival candidate for township head in the preceding year’s elections. The village head owned several stores surrounding the old market from which he collected rents. The gradual shift of the center of trade and commerce from his village to the roadside had already hurt him financially, but the removal of the market would be an even more serious threat to his financial interests. The township

importance of the personal relationships between these various actors belied the integrity with which the district election team and the township election organizing committee appeared to observe the formal electoral rules. Even though Old Yang had not yet publicly announced his intention to run, by now all members the committee knew he was planning to contest the ballot. And despite appearances at the first committee meetings, each member of the committee had a preferred candidate and a stake in

English language electoral parlance. Although it was possible according to the regulations, it was considered almost impossible for someone to be elected in this way because most voters found it simpler to tick a box next to one of the two official candidates’ names printed on the ballot. To improve his chances, Long Hair decided he needed to buy votes. In villages where people were not firmly committed to either Peng or Song, Long Hair offered a hundred yuan in cash to every household that

urbanizing areas since it has acquired new powers over the finances of its constituent counties. The prefectural administrations often play an active role in the sparsely populated regions of western and southwestern China, where these may consist of twenty or more counties or as few as three. The prefecture as a unit of territorial administration is based on the Qing dynasty circuit, a coordinating level between the province and the counties. During the Republican period, the circuit was

applied. These included decisions relating to policy and project implementation, business licenses, the evaluation and enforcement of political contracts, corruption investigations, and, most importantly, the appointment and promotion of officials. Local officials frequently interpreted the outcomes of formal decision-making processes as the result of jockeying, horse trading, and outright conflict between rival patronage networks within the local state. Patronage networks coordinated across

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