Can co-production be state-led? Policy pilots in four Chinese cities
Local Chinese governments have been experimenting with a form of top-down “co-production” under different names and for various purposes. This paper examines practices in four Chinese cities to understand the process by which this co-production is introduced, its implementation and its outcomes. We found that in these cities, co-production is imposed on urban communities by the higher authorities, with the state playing very active roles in initiating, financing and facilitating the process. Despite the much-improved community environment, communities are not participating to the extent that the state would like. Nonetheless, we argue that this top-down approach has its merits. It may be an efficient way to ignite the co-production process and to some extent sustain it. When these practices are embedded in an authoritarian hierarchy, however, local officials involved are unavoidably evaluated by two separate performance assessment systems, the hierarchical and the horizontal, which so far have not been compatible.