The Control, Discretion, and Policy Implementation of Local Authorities in Rural China

Tao, Yu orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6289-9969, Hou, Linke and Liu, Mingxing (2016) The Control, Discretion, and Policy Implementation of Local Authorities in Rural China. The Chinese Journal of Sociology, 36 (5). pp. 107-130. ISSN 1004-8804

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Drawing upon representative national survey data collected in 2000, 2004 and 2007, this paper systematically examines how township and village authorities in contemporary rural China actually implement the policies and instructions that they receive from above. The empirical evidence reveals the following. First, the actual situation of policy implementation in contemporary rural China is often jointly determined by the controlling powers that upper-level authorities have over their subordinate agencies on the one hand, and the discretion enjoyed by the latter on the other. Second, the interactions between upper-level authorities and their subordinate agencies vary across different governmental levels and policy fields. County authorities are more capable in controlling over township authorities, but township authorities often have relatively weaker control over village authorities. Such a pattern was reinforced after the rural taxation reform in early 2000s. In addition, this paper also demonstrates that local authorities in contemporary rural China tend to prioritise activities which can bring about direct benefits to them, even when such activities are not regarded as priorities by their higher-ups.

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