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Centrifugal Empire

Centrifugal Empire: Central–Local Relations in China

Chung Jae Ho
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 232
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    Centrifugal Empire
    Book Description:

    Despite the destabilizing potential of governing of a vast territory and a large multicultural population, the centralized government of the People's Republic of China has held together for decades, resisting efforts at local autonomy. By analyzing Beijing's strategies for maintaining control even in the reformist post-Mao era,Centrifugal Empirereveals the unique thinking behind China's approach to local governance, its historical roots, and its deflection of divergent interests.

    Centrifugal Empireexamines the logic, mode, and instrument of local governance established by the People's Republic, and then compares the current system to the practices of its dynastic predecessors. The result is an expansive portrait of Chinese leaders' attitudes toward regional autonomy and local challenges, one concerned with territory-specific preoccupations and manifesting in constant searches for an optimal design of control. Jae Ho Chung reveals how current communist instruments of local governance echo imperial institutions, while exposing the Leninist regime's savvy adaptation to contemporary issues and its need for more sophisticated inter-local networks to keep its unitary rule intact. He casts the challenges to China's central-local relations as perennial, since the dilution of the system's "socialist" or "Communist" character will only accentuate its fundamentally Chinese-or centrifugal-nature.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-54068-1
    Subjects: Political Science, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 China as a Centrifugal Empire: Size, Diversity, and Local Governance (pp. 1-14)

    All modern states are constructed within sovereign territories that are in principle politically monopolized, economically sustained, socially integrated, diplomatically safeguarded, and even militarily defended if necessary. Because modern states must carry out a wide range of socioeconomic functions catered to the indispensable needs of their populaces, certain degrees of political-administrative penetration—ranging from nationwide taxation and conscription to public services delivery and welfare provision—are a prerequisite.¹ The principal mode of organizing and regulating territorial jurisdictions, however, differs widely among states as history is bound to shape distinct patterns and cultures of local governance.²

    States differ considerably in their physical...

  6. 2 China Goes Local (Again): Assessing Post-Mao Decentralization (pp. 15-31)

    Fatal challenges to the “mandate of heaven” [tianming] and resultant dynastic cycles were familiar themes to the rulers of the Chinese empire. The recipe for such dynastic changes consisted of some combinations of the eruption of peasant rebellions, the rise of local strongmen, and foreign aggression or invasion. As the later years of the Qing dynasty and the Republican era forcefully demonstrate, the Taiping and Nian rebellions, the rise of provincial armies and regional warlords and later of the Red Army, and the Western and Japanese encroachment since the Opium War jointly contributed to their demise or debacle.¹ All these...

  7. 3 The Subnational Hierarchy in Time: Institutional Changes (and Continuities) (pp. 32-53)

    The institutional hierarchy of local administration is generally subject to intermittent changes and adjustments due to a variety of factors either common to most states or specific to some. Acute needs for the efficient delivery of public goods and services often brought about new structures of subnational administration, such as the metropolitan government system in many parts of Western Europe.¹ Democratic transitions also led to some decentralizing tendencies, particularly when local actors needed to perform crucial roles inside their political parties.² Even within the same state, the dominant structure of local governance has occasionally changed over the course of history,...

  8. 4 The Center’s Perceptions of Local Bureaucracy in China: A Typological First-Cut (pp. 54-71)

    Whether between states, groups, or individuals, perception plays a crucial role as it formulates, guides, prompts, and constrains the behavior of actors involved. Despite its importance, perception is generally complex and amorphous and therefore does not render itself to easy deciphering. This chapter takes on the question of how the central state’s perception of the local state has been changing in the People’s Republic.¹ By way of tracing the evolutionary trajectory of the center’s views of local bureaucracy, this study suggests that Beijing’s perception of the local state as a principal has been gradually reinforced, while that of an agent...

  9. 5 The Center’s Instruments of Local Control (pp. 72-87)

    Maintaining stability and ensuring survival are the principal goals of any political regime. China is no exception to this rule whether its rulers were emperors, khans, generalissimos, or general secretaries. History has repeatedly witnessed so many failed states around the world that ended up changing their names or even totally disappearing from the map.¹ Given that, the resilience of China as a unified state is rather impressive. The “restoration” of China as a global player, if not a hegemonic competitor yet, seems all the more remarkable. What, then, has enabled China to avoid the ill fate that had fallen on...

  10. 6 Determinants of Local Discretion in Implementation: Exploring Policy-Contingent Variations (pp. 88-114)

    Implementation is such a complex interactive dynamics that the extent of discretion actually permitted for local governments is determined by a wide array of factors. Elite-centered studies, many of which flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, generally focus on factional ties and patron–client relations between the center and localities.¹ Their main argument is that the stronger the intergovernmental clientelistic/factional ties, the more room for local discretion (either for early adoption/ advocacy or for foot-dragging/defiance) because such paternalistic ties more often than not have the effect of ensuring protection and therefore of mitigating the fears of persecution at times of...

  11. 7 The Political Economy of Vertical Support and Horizontal Networks (pp. 115-140)

    Whereas the preceding chapters examined mostly vertical dynamics of decentralization/recentralization, administrative hierarchy, imposition, autonomy, compliance, discretion, and contention between the central and local governments, this one explores horizontal-lateral dimensions of coordination, competition, exchanges, and cooperation among regions and localities. In China, where the inertia of geographically fragmented economic management (i.e., local protectionism) remains strong due mainly to the constraints imposed by the transitional reforms, developing a unified national market and fostering horizontal cooperative linkages and lateral exchange networks, thereby reducing the room for local autarky and compartmentalization, are deemed necessary but prove difficult.¹

    In the early phase of post-Mao reforms,...

  12. 8 Conclusion (pp. 141-148)

    The foregoing discussions have delved into the spatial, temporal, functional, hierarchical, and horizontal factors that were conducive in different ways to the prevalence of centrifugal forces in China in both traditional and modern times. The evolution of the center’s instruments of local governance has also been examined in detail. As for the post-Mao era in par tic u lar, the overall impact of the system reforms on central–local balances of power was neither straightforward nor uniform. That is, although subnational governments generally obtained a significantly expanded scope of discretion in the making and implementation of policy, especially compared with...

  13. Notes (pp. 149-210)
  14. Index (pp. 211-216)