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Destiny of Township Government


By Zhao Shukai

Fundamentally speaking, problems facing township governments now are not related to townships, but to the government. If it must be defined as problems of townships per se, it should be problems of the government reflected at the township level. In this sense, the destiny of township governments is closely hinged on China’s government reform. Without systematic innovation in the entire government system, there will be no success to say for township governments’ reform. However, it doesn’t mean township governments cannot be reformed or that reform will get nowhere. On the contrary, the township governments at the grassroots level enjoy much room for making innovations and breakthroughs. Actually some township governments have already done so. It is held that transforming township governments into agencies of upper-level governments may be the future for township governments. In view of township governments’ current performance, they have basically become such agencies and in view of the practical needs of rural development, there needs a government agency between counties (county-level cities) and villages; in view of public services, it is necessary to have a local office at the township level with several staff that could represent the government to deal with various affairs, and make timely response to people’s requirements and social changes in rural areas. But the conditions are not adequate now, and it is impossible to have such a practical option for township governments’ reform at present. The difficulty lies in the fact that however organizations are designed, we should first face a fundamental problem of the huge staff in the current government. Besides, if streamlining government agencies is a tangible problem, the transformation of government functions is an intangible one and the resolution of this problem is even more complicated. The problem facing government reform now is that although people have realized the necessity for the government to transform its function, the mechanism for government performance has not been transformed. In terms of township governments’ reform, it is most important for upper-level governments not to set so many forbidden zones or stipulate so many universal measures. In face of the river of reform, township governments should be allowed to wade across the river by feeling the stones on the river bed. We are confident that community-level officials can create their new destiny through such a pilot practice.

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