State, Market, and Bureau-contracting in Reform China

State, Market, and Bureau-contracting in Reform China

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Why and how has China succeeded as a developmental state despite a seemingly rents-ridden bureaucracy? Following conventional wisdom, qWeberianq bureaucracies are an institutional precondition for development, especially in interventionist states like China. However, my research finds that China's fast-growing economy has not been governed by a purely salaried civil service. Instead, Chinese bureaucracies still remain partially prebendal; at every level of government, each office systematically appropriates authority to generate income for itself. My study unravels the paradox of qdevelopmentalism without Weberiannessq by illuminating China's unique path of bureaucratic adaptation in the reform era -- labeled as bureau-contracting -- where contracting takes place within the state bureaucracy. In a bureau-contracting structure, the state at each level contracts the tasks of governance to its own bureaucracies, assigning them revenue-making privileges and property rights over income earned in exchange for services rendered. Contrasting previous emphases on the prevalence of illicit corruption in China, my study shows how and why bureaucracies in this context are actually authorized by the state to profit from public office. Specifically, I identify two factors that constrain arbitrary and excessively predatory behavior among Chinese bureaucracies: first, mechanisms of rents management, and second, the mediation of narrow departmental interests by local developmental incentives. In short, I argue that it is the combination of an incentive-compatible fiscal design and increasingly sophisticated instruments of oversight that have sustained an otherwise unorthodox structure of governance in China. In a phrase, bureau-contracting presents a high-powered but opportunistic alternative to the Weberian ideal-type. The Chinese experience suggests that qmarket-compatibleq bureaucratic institutions need not necessarily conform to -- and may even diverge significantly -- from standard Western models, at least at early stages of development. My research draws on interviews with 165 cadres across different regions and governmental sectors, as well as statistical analysis of previously unavailable budget data.These reforms, I have argued, did not in the produce a regular salaried bureaucracy. ... it has proven more difficult than expected to realize an adequate compensation scheme that could allow the state to institute a purely salaried civil service.

Title:State, Market, and Bureau-contracting in Reform China
Author:Yuen Yuen Ang
Publisher:Stanford University - 2009


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