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While the production and marketing of agricultural produce are no longer monopolized by local officials, the county's control over development assistance and investment for expanding urban infrastructure has assured a continuing—and in many cases an expanding—role for the county government in county-towns and townships. Bureaucratic administrative control over rural town development, as a consequence, remains very powerful, and the characteristics of that control—such as lack of institutional constraints on the authority of upper levels—will sound very familiar to those who have read the other chapters.

The Schroeder, Walder, and Zweig contributions draw remarkably similar pictures in their examination of various subnational levels in China. They all agree that the reforms significantly decentralized control over economic resources, that subnational bureaucracies became more important in decision making on economic issues, that the system lacks clear rules and a stable distribution of authority, and that these circumstances have combined with vague or inconsistent policies from above to produce and contour widespread bargaining behavior.

This concentration of power has not reduced bargaining—it has, rather, reshaped it. These explorations into four bureaucratic clusters and of the top and bottom of the system challenge and modify the fragmented authoritarian model in several important ways. They may be briefly summarized as follows:. The reforms have not produced straightforward decentralization of China's bureaucratic system. Rather, they have had complex effects. Reform policies have consciously decentralized decision making in the economic sphere and have given lower bureaucratic levels more control over fiscal resources.

The reduced role of ideology has reinforced fragmentation of the system. But countervailing trends, such as enhancement of the Center's authority to acquire and analyze information, have also been nurtured by the reforms.

The resulting system structures new bargaining relationships and dynamics of decision making, but the Center continues to hold serious cards in this economic game. Fragmentation of the bureaucratic system is most severe in the domain from the ministries through the provinces. Above the ministries and below the provinces, this is a political system characterized by extraordinary concentrations of power. The key to whether bar-. The reforms since the late s have produced only very limited progress toward institutionalizing the political system. While top leaders no longer launched disruptive political campaigns to shake up the bureaucratic institutions, the system as a whole failed to develop institutional ways of allocating authority on a stable basis.

The legal system does not function in a fashion that enables it to adjudicate key issues and establish stable precedents. Law and regulation combined do not pose effective bars to the adoption of policies that redistribute power and violate past commitments.

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While formal rules do not constrain the top leaders in reshaping the system, three other factors do limit considerably the effective leverage of those leaders. First, officials at lower levels tend to ignore or circumvent top-level decisions that are vague or inconsistent.

Second, substantive policy goals, especially those of the reformers, demand that top leaders allow their subordinates considerable leeway, as any other approach chokes off information, reduces enthusiasm and creativity, and precludes China's developing the dynamic society envisioned by the reformers.

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Third, top leaders generally recognize that policy implementation, especially regarding major economic projects, can be slowed down and made more difficult by unenthusiastic provincial and lower-level officials, and thus they often seek to bring those officials on board rather than to coerce them into compliance. For many parts of the political system, processes other than bargaining tend to play very important roles in determining how bureaucratic units deal with each other. These may include, inter alia, the personal maneuvering at the apex suggested by Carol Hamrin, the competitive persuasion noted by Nina Halpern, or the coping mechanisms detailed by Lynn Paine.

Bargaining is more likely to occur where tangible resources are at stake, both parties need each other, and the rules that govern decisions are not fixed and clear. Quite often, one or both of the first two of these conditions is not present. Another way to put the findings in this volume into perspective is to look at the Chinese political system as being in transition from a traditional hierarchical system toward a more modern, market-oriented system. In the former, activities are guided primarily by traditional vertical relationships within the bureaucratic apparatus, while in the latter a wider range of activities is shaped by pure rule-guided and especially market relationships.

This is a basic set of changes sought by the post reforms. Figures 1.

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Corruption Rent seeking e Patron-client Bargaining f. Persuasion d Corruption d Rent seeking de Guanxi Bargaining. In the traditional system, relations are shaped primarily by informal criteria, such as personal connections and actual control over resources. The more modern variant posits a greater role for formal institutional boundaries, accepted rules, and laws. In short, in the more modern polity, the role of personal elements is reduced and that of more formal criteria is enhanced.

As is indicated in these charts, for each of these two types of polity there are three basic structural relationships: those where both parties. The resulting ranges of types of behavior for each structure of relationship in the traditional and modern polities are indicated. To repeat, an objective of the s reforms in China was to shift from a situation where activities are guided primarily by traditional vertical.

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As the chapters in this volume confirm, the reality of the reforms fell far short of the ultimate goals of shifting to more modern forms of behavior and of sharply curtailing the scope of bureaucratic activity. Rather, the major changes in the s moved an increasing array of decisions from the "Both In" vertical cell box 1 in the Traditional Polity chart to the "Both In" horizontal cell box 2 and the "One In, One Out" vertical and horizontal cells boxes 3 and 4 in that same chart. The actual scope of bureaucratic activity remains surprisingly pervasive, [38] and these changes reflect the fact that the reforms in many ways flattened China's bureaucratic hierarchy and increased the importance of nonbureaucratic sectors without changing the nature of relationships to those of a more modern polity.

Only within the decision-making apparatus developed directly under Zhao Ziyang's aegis in the Zhongnanhai, as is detailed by Nina Halpern, did behavior move in very substantial measure toward the appropriate box box 1 in the chart Modern Polity. One important result of these shifts that is not highlighted in this volume is that they have nurtured corruption and rent-seeking behavior both within the bureaucracies and between officials and the population.

These behaviors reflect in part the combination of the rapid development of nongovernmental efforts, the commercialization of many governmental activities, continued bureaucratic power to intervene in the market, and confusion over norms. Note that these forms of behavior predominate even as the unofficial party acquires resources that create a relatively symmetrical relationship with the official party. Thus, the very process of reform itself has created conditions that nurture corruption by relaxing former rules and habitual practices, diffusing authority and resources, and creating confusion over guiding norms.

The charts and the discussion of the fragmented authoritarianism model reflect a preliminary way of looking at the trends in the kinds of. Clearly, many aspects of personal life that formerly were considered part of the responsibility of the propaganda and public security apparatuses now fall outside of the operational concerns of these bureaucracies, although the boundaries remain vague and shifting. Similarly, much petty production and trade takes place without active bureaucratic interference.

The particular data in the various chapters flesh out this framework in some detail. No polity operates in a purely "modern" fashion nor should it , but the differences between low levels of institutionalization combined with expansion of the role of the market to produce widespread rent-seeking behavior and corruption, versus far greater use of law and regulation to achieve market-driven outcomes, is serious and important.


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  • The chapters in this volume are far richer than the above comments can convey. Each provides analytical insights, a "feel" for the bureaucratic arena being addressed, and, typically, illustrative material that conveys a nuanced appreciation of the forces that shape political and bureaucratic outcomes in China. Overall, however, they do not provide substantial comment on the extent to which the system has changed over time, on the role of the Chinese Communist Party in the polity, on the impact of culture on policy process, and on relations between state and society.

    These are all important issues for putting into perspective the content and coverage of chapters that follow, and this "Introduction" thus concludes with a few comments on each of these matters. The s reform era created the impression of major change in the way China was governed. In part, those perceived changes were substantive and important. As was noted above, for example, the reforms significantly redistributed flows of information in the system and greatly reduced the role of ideology as a factor in structuring policy formation and implementation.

    But there is a danger of exaggerating the changes that the reforms produced in China's bureaucratic practice. As figures 1. Clearly, there have been important continuities as well as changes. The fundamental structure of the Chinese bureaucratic system that was established in the s, for example, remains in place to the present and continues to exert tremendous influence on policy process.

    Mao Zedong himself altered the scope of authority of the various bureaucratic clusters over time in his quest to keep the political system responsive to his desires. At the beginning of the. While all of these efforts have redistributed authority and resources, none has fundamentally changed the nature of the system. The "losing" clusters during each period remain in the wings as potential resources for political contenders who seek a change of course.

    A number of additional factors make it difficult to judge the extent to which bureaucratic practice under Mao differed from the findings presented in this volume.

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    For the Maoist era, we obviously lack the kind of detailed studies based on direct access that are contained here. In addition, the Chinese media were far less informative about this earlier period than they became during the s. And many Chinese interviewees, acting in the best of faith, nevertheless tend to recall past situations in conformity with the current official views concerning those previous periods. Thus, the s demonology concerning the Maoist era has affected recapitulations of decision making during that era. Even the extent of pressures for change effected by the s reformers is not unprecedented in the PRC.

    The Chinese reforms beginning in the late s sought changes in important areas: bureaucratic organization, the scope of responsibility and definition of tasks of key bureaucracies, the distribution of bureaucratic resources, and the nature of the process by which decisions are made. In broad terms, the reform leadership of the country tried to make the system less personalized, less ideological, less centralized, and more sensitive to economic rewards for greater efficiency and dynamism.

    But the bureaucracies under Mao also had to adapt to very different environments in terms of the intensity of ideological pressure, [40] the openness to the outside world i. In short, pressures for change of this magnitude have been a recurrent feature of China's. Borisov and B. The question concerning the extent to which the bureaucratic world detailed in this volume also characterized the Maoist period must, therefore, remain unanswered. Significant changes have undoubtedly occurred in some aspects of policy process, especially since the role of ideology in the system has diminished greatly and the reforms appear to have significantly flattened bureaucratic hierarchies.

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    But there may be more continuity than we assume, and researchers should keep this possibility in mind as they undertake further studies on the Maoist era. The system as described and analyzed in this volume probably will remain more constant in the future than changes in elite-level political rhetoric might suggest. It is made clear, for example, that, while there is no constitutional or even normative bar to the central leadership's radically altering the distribution of authority crafted by its predecessors, this would require either that one leader emerge as a new strongman or that strong agreement be reached among all the top leaders that the system should move in this new direction.

    Without such agreement, policy decisions will lack the clarity, consistency, and detail that are necessary to bring a high probability of lower-level compliance. Without such agreement at the very top, to put it differently, there is apt to be widespread sabotage of national directives by officials at each subnational level. If the top-level initiatives move the system toward a more centralized system producing less information, moreover, then lower levels will be in a position quietly to achieve greater degrees of freedom through manipulation of information that goes to the leadership.

    In short, by focusing on fundamental structure and process, we examine here factors that indicate that the Chinese system is not nearly as malleable as are the dynamics of political contention at the apex of the system. At the time of this writing there is a possibility that China will experience dramatic political change in the coming years. The factors under scrutiny here are of such a fundamental nature, however, that to some extent any successor system is likely to embody many of the features and dynamics that are discussed in these pages.

    Major changes would, of course, be evident, but the issues explored would very likely retain significant salience even if leaders who reject communism were to govern China. The Chinese constitution recognizes the Chinese Communist Party as the "sole leader" of the Chinese system. Even the major reform docu-. Yet the actual state of the Party—its organization, work methods, and to some extent even its bureaucratic identity—remain matters on which there is little information and much confusion among foreign scholars. Discussion of the Party is bedeviled, of course, by the difficulty of gaining access to information.

    The Chinese press during the s became relatively frank about problems in the government, but it treated the Party gingerly.