Skip to content
Open global navigation

Cambridge University Press

AcademicLocation selectorSearch toggleMain navigation toggle

Your Cart


You have 0 items in your cart.

Register Sign in Wishlist
Accountability without Democracy

Accountability without Democracy
Solidary Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China

$119.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: August 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521871976

$119.99 (P)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This book examines the fundamental issue of how citizens get government officials to provide them with the roads, schools, and other public services they need by studying communities in rural China. In authoritarian and transitional systems, formal institutions for holding government officials accountable are often weak. The answer, Lily L. Tsai found, lies in a community's social institutions. Even when formal democratic and bureaucratic institutions of accountability are weak, government officials can still be subject to informal rules and norms created by community solidary groups that have earned high moral standing in the community.

    • Was the first book on China which combines extensive ethnographic data with extensive survey data
    • Contains in-depth case studies and vivid anecdotes that engage and entertain readers
    • Related to the leadership in China which took power in 2003 and which had just identified issues of rural governance, development, and inequality as the biggest problems facing China
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Lily Tsai has written an outstanding book in which she raises important questions and pursues them with great skill. The use of data is both clever and appropriate; she seldom claims more than she can support, and the claims she makes are driven home with careful ferocity. Tsai also unravels theoretical concepts at a very high level of sophistication, which enables her to situate her China specific findings in a broader comparative context, where democracy is not fully institutionalized."
    Atul Kohli, Princeton University

    "In this book, Lily Tsai expertly explains why some villages have paved roads, good schools, and running water and others do not. It’s not wealth. Nor is it cadres who fear elections or sanctions from above. Instead, Tsai carefully traces how temples, churches, and lineages offer moral standing to officials who provide public goods and services. In so doing, Tsai brings a missing social component to studies of village governance in China, and a moral component to studies of ‘social capital’ worldwide. An innovative study that deftly mixes survey data and case studies, this book is sure to be a hit among political scientists, sociologists, and anyone interested in China’s ongoing transformation."
    Kevin O’Brien, University of California - Berkeley

    "Tsai’s book shows what collective corporatism means to most Chinese people, who live in the countryside. It suggests how the party-state evolves or erodes in different kinds of villages, and it provides a much firmer basis than has previously been available for the study of what democracy might eventually mean in rural China. Everyone who is interested in the politics of the world’s most populous country must read this book." br/>Lynn T. White, Princeton University

    "This book is a major contribution to the burgeoning literature on state-society relations in present-day China. Lily Tsai’s is the first work that systematically links formal and informal processes at the village level. She has an answer to a difficult question: why do some local officials provide public goods such as roads and schools but many do not, even when village elections are held regularly and when administrative superiors demand action? The answer lies in informal institutions such as lineages and village temples. The authority of these solidary groups enmeshes village officials in norms, expectations, and moral obligations which motivate them to provide benefits to villagers in the form of public goods. Remarkably, even as the Communist Party distrusts lineages and temples, can they play a constructive role in rural development. The author’s methodologically sophisticated, comparative investigation allows her to identify just under what circumstances the linkage between informal village groups and officials operates effectively. This book successfully combines fine social science scholarship with deep understanding of Chinese society and culture."
    Thomas P.Bernstein, Columbia University

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2007
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521871976
    • length: 368 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.71kg
    • contains: 53 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Governance and informal institutions of accountability
    2. Decentralization and local governmental performance
    3. Local governmental performance: assessing village public goods provision
    4. Informal accountability and the structure of solidary groups
    5. Temples and churches in rural China
    6. Lineages and local governance
    7. Accountability and village democratic reforms
    8. The limitations of formal party and bureaucratic institutions
    9. Conclusion.

  • Resources for

    Accountability without Democracy

    Lily L. Tsai

    General Resources

    Welcome to the resources site

    Here you will find free-of-charge online materials to accompany this book. The range of materials we provide across our academic and higher education titles are an integral part of the book package whether you are a student, instructor, researcher or professional.

    Find resources associated with this title

    Type Name Unlocked * Format Size

    Showing of

    Back to top

    *This title has one or more locked files and access is given only to instructors adopting the textbook for their class. We need to enforce this strictly so that solutions are not made available to students. To gain access to locked resources you either need first to sign in or register for an account.

    These resources are provided free of charge by Cambridge University Press with permission of the author of the corresponding work, but are subject to copyright. You are permitted to view, print and download these resources for your own personal use only, provided any copyright lines on the resources are not removed or altered in any way. Any other use, including but not limited to distribution of the resources in modified form, or via electronic or other media, is strictly prohibited unless you have permission from the author of the corresponding work and provided you give appropriate acknowledgement of the source.

    If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

  • Author

    Lily L. Tsai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Lily L. Tsai is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at MIT. Her research for this book received the Best Field Work Award from the American Political Science Association Section on Comparative Democratization in 2005. She has written articles in Comparative Economic and Social Systems (Jingji Shehui Tizhi Bijiao) and The China Quarterly. Two of her articles are forthcoming in edited volumes by Elizabeth Perry and Merle Goldman and by Lei Guang. Professor Tsai is a graduate of Stanford University, where she graduated with honors and distinction in English literature and international relations. She received an M.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 2005.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Back to top

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.

Cancel Delete

Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.