Selective Policy Implementation in Rural China

Comparative Politics, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 167-86, January 1999

20 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2008

See all articles by Kevin J. O'Brien

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science

Abstract

How do Chinese local officials define their tasks and distinguish between policies that must be executed and those they can safely ignore? Drawing on "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches to implementation, we examine how much discretion rural leaders enjoy and how this discretion affects policy delivery. Archival sources and interviews show that selective implementation is an outgrowth of the institutions that govern cadre management. One-level-down management, the end of mass campaigns, and cadre responsibility systems have led local officials to urge villagers to pay their taxes, accept cremation, and practice birth control, but to ignore less measurable policies that forbid excessive extraction and coercive behavior. Efforts to address misimplementation are also discussed, including "rightful resistance" by aggrieved villagers.

Keywords: China, rural, implementation, cadre responsibility system, rightful resistance

JEL Classification: K49, 054, P33

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Kevin J. and Li, Lianjiang, Selective Policy Implementation in Rural China. Comparative Politics, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 167-86, January 1999 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1118806

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science ( email )

Hong Kong

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