An emerging architecture of local experimentalist governance in China : a study of local innovations in Baoding, 1992-2012
Author(s)Shin, Kyoung Mun
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Edward S. Steinfeld.
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What are the conditions under which local actors are more likely to carry out policy innovations that produce environmental or social benefits in local China? Previous studies on "Chinese experimentalism" suggest that local innovations in contemporary China stem from its ability to couple reflexive central coordination and decentralized local policy experiments. The strength of this "closed" architecture of experimentalist governance lies on the underlying principal-agent distributive bargaining principles between the center and the local, i.e., career prospects, preferential policies, and so on. All of the major mechanisms, processes, and procedures are confined to the center-local dynamics in the political hierarchy. Building on more than two years of site-intensive fieldwork, this dissertation reveals a distinct architecture of experimentalist governance emerging in local China that does not exclusively depend on the requirements of central coordination and formal incentives in the hierarchy. In its basic form, certain local government actors are increasingly opening themselves up and constructing and immersing themselves in communities of practice with extra-local and non-state actors across different levels and sectors. But the uniqueness of this governance architecture lies not only on its form or ostensible structure, but also on its modalities and substance. In those communities, the protagonists enact a recursive process of joint goal-setting, interpretation of policy problems, search and discovery, and mutual learning. In the course of this process, they collectively set achievable provisional "frameworks" (kuangfia) or "platforms" (pingtai), which are continually recalibrated going forward. That is, the protagonists in this governance architecture continuously reflect on and revise their expectations and practices in light of what they learn about local conditions and respective capabilities. This emerging open architecture of experimentalist governance, which encompasses actors and processes beyond the immediate confines of the locality and the political hierarchy, is primarily responsible for particular policy innovations in local China, such as low-carbon cities and clean energy cities. In short, it is suggested that local innovation is more about creating a social space for joint deliberation, as opposed to "getting the incentives right."
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Political Science, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 286-304).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology