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Township Governance and Institutionalization in China


Zhao Shukai. Township Governance and Institutionalization in China. World Scientific, Nov 2013.

Township Governance and Institutionalization in China

Brief Introduction

This book is the Vol. 35 of the Series on Contemporary China. This book is an empirical study of the grassroots government and governance in contemporary China. The author focuses on the township level among the three levels such as county, township and village, and the first 5 years of 21st century. The Chinese government abolished the agricultural tax in 2005 which tremendously influenced the daily activities and works of grassroots government. However, the author argues that the institutional environment and the behavior of grassroots government have not changed. Therefore, in the coming decades, this book and its arguments are of great importance for the Chinese government and its reform.

This book analyzes the township government from multiple dimensions, which include the organization of township government, the finance of township government, accountability of township government authority, the relationship between township and upper-level government, and the relationship between township government and grassroots society. From perspectives of different questions, I attempt to observe and describe the actual activities of township government in a dynamic way, especially the interaction between government and institutional environment. My starting point is to observe and discuss the related theories.

The introduction concentrates on the principal questions and analytic framework of this research. My core concerns the operation of grassroots government that is not only limited to the government but also involves the rural society government institution and relationship between state and society.

Chapter 1 briefly examines the history of township government during the reform era and analyzes the current literatures and theories since the historical process of reform has reshaped the current township government. Through the evolution process of explanation, we can understand the current status of township government, where a comparison of original intention of reform and status quo is a major dimension to analyze the operation of grassroots government. I not only place the exploration of this book in an academic context, but also place a greater effort on the important discussion of realistic questions.

Chapter 2 describes the organization and personnel of current township government, and reviews the former reform of the institutions and organizations. I try to explain: Have the great efforts of reform affected the streamlined organization? How did the mechanism of internal expansion happen? Especially, how to set up the cornerstone for the grassroots government?

Chapter 3 explores township governments' financial issues and debt problems. These problems have arisen only as a result of the drawbacks of grassroots government, also from the defects of the whole government system. I try to combine the specific status quo of township government for further discussion: What is the proper budgetary and fiscal institution needed by modern government?

Chapter 4 analyzes the internal power structure of township government, arrangement of accountability and mechanism of encouragement, and accountability system from upper level to township government. The purpose of these analyses is to expose the distortion under the interaction between power structure and accountability of township government, and my major question of this aspect regarding what is the fundamental basis of designation of township governmental accountability?

Chapter 5 focuses on the controlling system of government, and analyzes how the township government deals with the upper-level government by way of entertainment and how the township government manipulates the village through direct management. My concerns include not only the interactions between township government and its upper level, but also questions like: Has the cooperation between the central government and rural society implemented the purpose of joint controlling the grassroots through the self-rule of villagers?

Chapter 6 begins with the functions of public services, and the analysis is focused on change of relationship between township government and grassroots society under the historical background of national policies’ improvement. Since the people are familiar with the construction- and service-type of government as the ruling idea, what were the major factors that determined the transformation of government toward to the service-type?

Chapter 7 explores the historical fate and future evolution of township government, which put the reform of grassroots government under the background of entire governmental transition to observe two perspectives. The first one is direction of realistic change under the established system of government, and the second one is the direct influence of macro factor to the fate of grassroots government. The core question is what is the background that facilitated the meaningful action to the reform of government at grassroots level?

Chapter 8 concentrates upon the discussion on the operation mechanism of grassroots government. The analysis shows that the operation of grassroots government has fallen into a deep internal dilemma — involution. From my point of view, the grassroots governmental defects such as its functions, operations and structure have become the systematic problems. As a result, the operation of the government enters into a path with embarrassing status where it is hard to reflect the realistic development of government. The factor of this dilemma is the alienation of governmental institution.

Chapter 9 concentrates on the discussion of basic questions regarding the initiative of grassroots government. These questions have surpassed the grassroots even over the government, but they are closely related with the change and reform of grassroots government. These problems such as politics and administration, government and society, political and governmental institutionalization, democracy, self-rule, and rule of law are not only related with the construction of national regime, but must also be faced by the reform in China. I try to integrate the particular grassroots government and the life of rural society to discuss these problems for deepening the study the reform of China government.

Although the data of this book is drawn upon the field research under specific time span and locations, the starting point can trace to my observation and reflection long time ago. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to study the policy research after reform era, especially the sannong issues. During this period, my attention was on the construction of grassroots organization where I fortunately assumed the leading position of grassroots government. These working experiences have helped me immensely in understanding the important problems of rural society. This book tries to provide systematic answers to problems of grassroots government that have been of concern to scholars for a long time. While I am not certain whether this goal can be reached or not, the one thing that I can do is to try my best.