Keeping in Touch: Tools and Strategies for Chinese Local Cadres to Avoid Disconnection From Citizens

Title: 1386 | Keeping in Touch: Tools and Strategies for Chinese Local Cadres to Avoid Disconnection From Citizens
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Political Sciences
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Emilie Frenkiel, International School of Political Studies, France (organizer, presenter)
Jinrui Xi, Tongji University, China (chair, presenter)
Adam Liu, National University of Singapore, Singapore (presenter, discussant)
Yunyun Zhou, Oxford University, United Kingdom (presenter)
Pu Yan, University of Oxford, United Kingdom (presenter)
Lei Wang, National University of Singapore, Singapore (presenter)


With the Open and Reform policy, the CCP has gradually shifted from a revolutionary party claiming to represent workers and peasants to a ruling party claiming to represent the whole Chinese nation, with a noticeable elitist twist. The Chinese society has simultaneously grown more unequal, to a point which could become threatening for the legitimacy of the CCP. When the anti-corruption campaign was launched, the current leadership urged Party cadres to change their attitude and reconnect with the citizens. Xi Jinping referred to the Maoist theory of the mass line (qunzhong luxian) the guiding method of consulting the masses, collecting their opinions and eventually formulating them into state policies. This panel investigates the current instruments which the CCP uses to connect local cadres with Chinese citizens: expression of responsiveness, participatory devices, social media and so on. We will wonder if it is right to consider them as updated versions of the Maoist mass line or if they are a whole new brand of governance instruments.

Panel Abstracts:
Does Participatory Budgeting Reconnect Chinese Citizens With Local Cadres?
This study is based on semi-directive interviews with local officials, scholars and participants of participatory budgeting (PB) and deliberative assemblies as well as observations conducted in three different Chinese provinces (Zhejiang, Sichuan and Jiangxi). In the backdrop of widespread lack of financial transparency, which is one of the main causes of corruption and popular discontent at the village and district level, the ambitious government innovations (PB) we focus on here are quite exceptional but can be considered as pilot experimentations in line with central guidelines encouraging citizen supervision, participation and deliberation. Our main focus in this paper is the outcome of PB. Contrary to Nanchang where all residents take part in deliberation and the final vote, in Chengdu and Wenling, the participatory device contributes to disturbing representation in the sense that new representatives emerge. But who participate? Who participates in the cunmin or jumin yishihui (village or community council) making budget, land issues and dibao (minimum livelihood guarantee) allocation decisions in monthly meetings? Whose interests are represented and with what impact for common citizens? Does it lead to empowerment of common citizens and more responsiveness from local cadres?

Facing Crowds: China's Responsive Governance to Popular Collective Actions
The extent to which an authoritarian regime acutely responds to collective dissent filed by its people critically determines its ruling legitimacy. Timely and proper addressing of popular grievances keeps the regime from falling into further political jeopardy. In the recent decades, the Chinese government has been constantly busied by diffusing popular collective actions. This article, through thorough case studies, provides a detailed account of the push and pull of power between the local Chinese governments and collective action mobilizers, who are seeking their due justice unfortunately deprived in the current political and economic state. In this paper, I contend that popular collective actions have become the chief motor for forcing change and actions from the local governments. The Chinese government, by contrast, have acted passively toward mismanaged financial crisis. The government’s first resort of action is usually containment of public gatherings through mobilizing police and security personnel. Not until the situation aggravates to the next level, the government moves to the resolve the root of the problem.

The Spatial Organization of Coercice Institutions in Authoritarian States
How do authoritarian states organize their coercive institutions over space? We argue that autocrats maximize the utility of limited coercive resources by clustering them with segments of the population that are ideologically distant and have mobilizational potential. We test this proposition through a novel spatial approach, using a dataset that covers the universe of police stations and religious sites in China. We find that foreign religious sites are more likely to be found within walking distance (e.g., 500m) of police stations than other sites, even after controlling for estimated population within 1km of each site. This finding implies that autocrats seek to increase their coercive capacity without heightening their “security dilemma,” i.e. without increasing spending on institutions that could also threaten them. This insight broadens our understanding of authoritarian rule.

Coping With Grassroots Governance and Mass Grievances: Institutional Challenges and Work Ethos of Communist Party Cadres in China’s Local States
The definition of ‘grassroots/jiceng’ in China’s local governance is broader and more relative than the classic definition of Lipsky (2010[1980])’s ‘street-level bureaucracy’, which only focuses on the lower level public servants who provide face-to-face service with citizens/clients. But based on the author’s fieldwork, it could be discerned that the core of the collective imagination of ‘jiceng’ involves at least three key elements the status of belong to the lower part of the state apparatus, which also means less power and more pressure to be promoted; the main objective being the operationalisation and implementation of policies; and the third element, closer to the Lipsky tradition of understanding ‘street-level bureaucracy’, the content of their work which involves face-to-face interactions with the masses. In light of these understandings of the ‘grassroots governance, this paper aims to illuminate how the local communist Party-State cadres are subjectively influenced by their experiences of serving in various departments in lower levels of party-states (street level, town/township level, and county level) are similar or variated. Looking into the core of China’s state apparatus, the article elaborates on the model of ‘state-subject formation’ to illustrate the seemingly contradictory roles of ‘the governing’ and ‘the governed’ faced by the grassroots cadres. It aims to illustrate the process of making the double-faceted ‘state-subjects’ in the everyday tasks of governance, which is both a process where local cadres learn to perform the local political leaders in front of their colleagues, subordinates and ordinary citizens, to identify themselves as part of local ruling

Grassroots Political Information-seeking and Everyday Practice of Local Governance on Mobile Social Media: Case Study in a Middle China Province
China has in recent years seen the wide adoption and use of mobile phone, powered by the development of information infrastructures such as the 3G and 4G mobile network and the lowered price of mobile devices and data packages. Mobile social media such as WeChat or QQ (mobile version), are increasingly embedded in everyday communication, information-seeking, and entertainment in China. Meanwhile, mobile social media have also provided new access to political information and platforms for public discourses for the users. As mobile social media become essential tools for finding political information in everyday life, the Chinese government has also tailored new strategies for local governance using mobile social media. Through my 15-month fieldwork in Middle China in 2017 and 2018, I conducted surveys, interviews, and participant observations on how the Internet has influenced many aspects of everyday lives in contemporary Chinese society. Using survey and interview data, I will explore how mobile social media such as WeChat, are appropriated by Chinese users to seek, share, and discuss political information related to state affairs and local policies. Elite interviews with local government officials will showcase the role of mobile social media in assisting local governance, and how local officials adopt or refuse to adopt mobile social media in their daily work. Findings from this paper will shed lights onto the theorisation of political representations and practices in everyday life context and will help understand the social and political dynamics of the Chinese Internet.

Collaborative Governance in China Through the Lens of Social Entreprises
This study provides a unique angle in understanding collaborative governance in authoritarian China. It argues that although the country is marked by a unitary political system with a tight grip on its Third Sector, collective governance with unique features has emerged in the form of hybrid organisations. The paper examines the development of a social enterprise from the microfinance sector in China and argues that the organisation has achieved collaborative governance by proactively converting its partnership with the government from the cooperative form to the integrative form. This transition helps tackle economic and political constraints as a result of the power imbalance between the organisations and the state. The new partnership model integrates the resources and strengthens the internal management of the organisation, leading to the successful emergence of a collaborative governance model from the microfinance sector in China

This panel is on Wednesday - Session 05 - Room 5

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