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The Historical Process of Township Reform


By Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center

By examining the goals and process of county and township reform in the past 20 years and more, we may find that practical evolvement of reform tend to go beyond the initial good wishes for policy design and get landed in a weak position. In a sense, this plight can be summed up as a simple system cycle that when the government deregulates its control, it would result in disorder and the government would exercise macro-control whereas its ability is impotent and incomplete. However, the problems are far more complicated and profound than this description. First, reform goals were clear previously. The establishment of household land contract responsibility system unveiled the economic reform in rural areas. Reform was launched after township governments’ work return to normal. To strengthen and improve the rural community-level regime building was considered as “a crucial component in China’s political system reform”, which proposed systematically to solve township problems and improve township regime building in both aspects of politics and economy and at three levels of villages, townships and counties. Second, the reform process went through twists and turns. Since the CPC Central Committee and the State Council released the Notice on Strengthening Rural Community-level Political Power Building in 1986 and made overall arrangements for community-level political power reform, townships have made efforts in reforming the institutional layout, division of power and the governance structure. Such trial practice has made some progress, but up till now, the initial basic reform goals are yet to be achieved. Third, the problem is in which way government reform should follow. The current county and township reform is placed under a social and historical environment of comprehensive rural reform. The significance of government reform is gaining increasing recognition in society. Government reform has passed the township level to enter the core of the government system. How to understand problems in the entire government system through resolving community-level government problems and how to examine China’s government innovation by reviewing evolvement of community-level government are questions worth special attention in the current stage of government reform research.

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