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Managing Social Stability: The Perspective of a Local Government in China

Abstract

Based on a town government's meeting memos between March 2001 and October 2007, annual work reports, and my interviews with local officials, I show that China's township governments have strived to contain, rather than resolve, social discontent. The tendency toward containment lies in two fundamental features of China's political institutions and central government strategy. First, in order to optimize the function of the petition system as a source of information without losing control, the Hu Jintao administration (2002–2012) passed regulations protecting the rights of petitioners on the one hand, and simultaneously put pressure on local officials to discourage petitioning, on the other. Second, the technical, institutional, and political features of China's cadre evaluation system encouraged local officials to take a short-term perspective on challenges, avoiding penalties rather than actually solving problems.

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Journal of East Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 1598-2408
  • EISSN: 2234-6643
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