This chapter introduces the volume and offers an in-depth analyzes of the changes that have taken place in Zouping's political economy over the last 15 years. It poses the core question of whether China's political institutions have somehow managed to cope despite remaining basically unreformed, or have there been more subtle and profound changes in the way that the old organizational structures actually operate. Ad hoc bureaucratic adaptations and accommodations change the operation, if not the organizational form, of local government institutions, where existing agencies play new and unexpected roles. It is institutional agility, with on-going political change masked by outward continuity in formal organization. The sections on the county's economic development include original analysis of the county's changing economic structure, the shift from public to private enterprise, and the political consequences of economic change. The chapter ends with a summary of the different chapters in the volume.
The chapter discusses the complicated historical background of Zouping County, Shandong Province, China. It shows how historical factors influenced subsequent social, economic and political events and trends. Among them the rural reform efforts lead by Liang Shuming are highlighted, as well as rural prototypes.
This chapter seeks to improve our understanding of how China's county level governments manage the diverse economic trajectories of the townships and villages they govern in three ways: First, by looking at the county, township and village levels, the chapter examines variations in development paths at the sub-county levels. Second, the chapter looks at the fiscal relationships between the county and its townships and their change over time as an indicator of the relative changes in the economic dynamics of a single locality. Lastly, in-depth interviews reveal details about the development and the politics that shaped and managed it. Selected case studies illustrate the diverse paths taken at the sub-county level. The chapter also shows how the key to Zouping's overall success has been the county government's ability to be creative and flexible even within the confines of a nationally scripted rural development policy.
This chapter examines one of the oldest and most basic problems of governance: how to pay the bureaucracy. Following the 1994 tax reform, China's local governments, even the relatively prosperous county of Zouping, face heightened budgetary pressures. Agencies and public service providers are therefore compelled to "self-finance"—that is, generate a portion of their own income and staff benefits. Contrary to popular opinion, practices of administrative self-financing are not arbitrary and lawless; rather, they are bound by rules, specifically, rules made by an intersecting matrix of vertical and horizontal authorities within the state. More broadly, this account illustrates a key condition of adaptation—which this chapter calls "directed improvisation."
This chapter analyzes business-government relations in a single Chinese county through the lens of IPR regulation. A focus on Zouping reveals the scope of variation that exists in business-government relations more than two decades after the introduction of policies regarding the separation of business and government. Three different ideal-typical models characterize business-government relations in Zouping: the Maoist model, where state and business are fused; the local developmental state model, where state financial and administrative resources are used to create the best possible environment for business; and the regulatory state model, where the relationship between the state and business is mediated by regulatory agencies, which are independent of the state and approach business as impartial referees. This variation within the same county with regard to IPR enforcement highlights one of the main themes of this volume, namely the coexistence of both continuity and adaptive change in Zouping.
This chapter examines the origins, development, and operations of the Zouping County Legal Affairs Office, and shows how non-judicial actors are charged with "legalizing" the local administrative state. The chapter explicates administrative rulemaking processes in Zouping, and the role that the Office plays in them. The chapter explains how institutional structure empowers the Office to pre-empt, mediate, and resolve administrative conflicts. Over time, the Office has been retooled and assigned tasks beyond its original scope of work. As a non-judicial interpreter of "legality," it has provided local government officials and departments room and procedures with which to adapt to local demands and changing circumstances.
In Zouping County, as elsewhere in China, the organization department is arguably the most powerful operational department of the communist party committee. This chapter focuses on the crux of that power, which is also the crux of party power: political selection. The county organization department collects information about party and government officials in the course of routine evaluations and non-routine vetting and uses that information to recommend personnel decisions to the party committee. This is a huge responsibility. Reform-era changes have not only increased the challenges for the department but also increased the likelihood that its failure to do the job well will be more easily detected. With few new staff and no major new institutional design, the organization department does many new (and newly required) things, so as to accomplish the core task of political selection that has always been its main charge.
Institutions of cadre training in Zouping have adjusted to the broad transformations that have swept across the party and Chinese society. Changes in cadre training at the local level demonstrate the responsiveness of traditional Leninist organizations, such as grassroots party schools, to a rapidly changing environment. Cadre training has fragmented, and there now exist myriad providers of services that compete and complement the work of party schools. Party schools have responded to competition by diversifying their portfolio of activities. This indicates that there is adaptive capacity within local party organizations, but these organizations must strike a careful balance between the political imperatives of the party and the economic pressures of the market.
This chapter concludes the volume, stressing that the barely perceptible changes have permitted an outwardly unchanging government to adapt flexibly in the way that it operates, resulting in institutional agility. It underscores the point that looking closely at the internal operations of local administrative systems reveal significant changes that have taken place within largely unchanged political structures. It acknowledges that one might debate the extent to which the practices described in this volume amount to significant political change, but argues that without these chapters and the fieldwork that went into them the question could not even be considered. It ends by making clear that the goal in this volume is not to argue that governance has become more democratic. The purpose is to provide some insights into how a single party authoritarian system has managed to govern despite fundamental changes in the economy and society.