‘Authoritarian Resilience’ and Effective Policy Implementation in Contemporary China : A Local State Perspective

The authors argue that China’s ‘authoritarian resilience’ cannot be fully grasped without adopting a local state perspective to examine the way that policy-making plays out at county level and below. Although local cadre bureaucracies have to obey upper levels, they still have substantial maneuvering space to shape the implementation of policies. Arguably, effective policy implementation is a manifestation and a result of systemic adaptiveness, effectiveness refering to the way that policies are adjusted according to local development blueprints, managed in terms of policy coordination across local government bureaus, experimentation and innovation, regular evaluation, and mobilization of public support. This article is structured as follows: first, it highlights important policy changes and institutional reforms launched by the central government in the early 2000s, which impacted strongly on local state governance and laid the groundwork for effective policy implementation. The authors then focus on the ‘Construction of a New Socialist Countryside’ ‘macro-policy’ as a frame of reference to show how local governments at county and township levels ensure effective policy implementation. It is argued that local cadres act as developmental agents who are able to manoeuver successfully between central state requirements and local needs to ensure that things are getting done ‘on the ground’. Subsequently, we show how local governments interact with and ‘guide’ private entrepreneurs as important stakeholders in implementing local development blueprints and strengthening public goods provision. In the conclusion, the main findings and arguments are summarized.

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Duisburg Working Papers on East Asian Studies


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