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To Govern China
Evolving Practices of Power


Vivienne Shue, Patricia M. Thornton, Elizabeth J. Perry, Sebastian Heilmann, Joel Andreas, Yige Dong, Robert P. Weller, Ching Kwan Lee, Yong Hong Zhang, Luigi Tomba, Jean-Louis Rocca, Christian Göbel, Thomas Heberer
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  • Date Published: May 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316643167

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About the Authors
  • How, practically speaking, is the Chinese polity - as immense and fissured as it has now become - actually being governed today? Some analysts highlight signs of 'progress' in the direction of more liberal, open, and responsive rule. Others dwell instead on the many remaining 'obstacles' to a hoped-for democratic transition. Drawing together cutting-edge research from an international panel of experts, this volume argues that both those approaches rest upon too starkly drawn distinctions between democratic and non-democratic 'regime types', and concentrate too narrowly on institutions as opposed to practices. The prevailing analytical focus on adaptive and resilient authoritarianism - a neo-institutionalist concept - fails to capture what are often cross-cutting currents in ongoing processes of political change. Illuminating a vibrant repertoire of power practices employed in governing China today, these authors advance instead a more fluid, open-ended conceptual approach that privileges nimbleness, mutability, and receptivity to institutional and procedural invention and evolution.

    • Brings together cutting-edge research from some of the most respected social scientists working on contemporary China
    • Reviews and critiques the 'authoritarian resilience' paradigm for students of comparative authoritarianism open to critical approaches
    • Emphasizes dynamic change, putting forward a fluid model of politics in process
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'How is China ruled? This inspired book takes us beyond simple answers (growth, repression, nationalism) deep into the governing techniques, logics, and ideas of the central state and local officials.' Ben Read, University of California

    'Western assessments of Chinese politics continue to be trapped in assertions of 'authoritarian resilience' or 'democratic transition'. Both amount to an implicit or explicit belief that liberal democracy ultimately ought to prevail. In this book some of the world's leading specialists of Chinese politics break with this trend. China's political system is presented as open and evolving, flexibly drawing on a repertoire of governance technologies that are woven together in constantly shifting and adaptive patterns. To Govern China is a major contribution to scholarship on contemporary Chinese politics with a vitally important message that should be heeded not only by scholars, but also by policy makers and journalists.' Frank N. Pieke, Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands

    'To Govern China opens up many new and fruitful avenues of analysis of Chinese political life at all levels. The essays richly and graphically describe a grayly bureaucratic state that trades in emotional appeals and entertains dream-like re-mappings of China's future, relies on secretive engines of power at the top to steer its titanic bulk while keeping open channels to its citizens in a wired, Internet age, turns a knowing 'blind eye' to behaviors not in the Party playbook while grasping the same local realities through incessant bargaining, 'repackages' social reality when old categories like 'urban' and 'rural' lose their saliency and the idea of a newly ascendant 'middle class' gains, divides and rules those at the bottom of society while 'haunting' its own officials with demands for incessant 'innovations' that rarely last the political season. This is a thought provoking and important examination of Chinese politics as it actually exists and is currently imagined.' David Strand, Dickinson College, Pennsylvania

    'This volume argues it is high time to move beyond transitology and authoritarian resilience in the study of Chinese politics. It offers a thoughtful critique of the focus on institutions and proposes a more dynamic, fluid, and 'braided' conceptualization of political change.' Lisa Hoffman, University of Washington, Tacoma

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316643167
    • length: 333 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.449kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: beyond implicit political dichotomies and linear models of change in China Vivienne Shue and Patricia M. Thornton
    Part I. Leadership Practices:
    1. Cultural governance in contemporary China: 're-orienting' party propaganda Elizabeth J. Perry
    2. China's core executive in economic policy: pursuing national agendas in a fragmented polity Sebastian Heilmann
    3. Maps, dreams, and the trails to heaven: envisioning a future Chinese nation-space Vivienne Shue
    Part II. People's Government:
    4. 'Mass supervision' and the bureaucratization of governance in China Joel Andreas and Yige Dong
    5. Shared fictions and informal politics in China Robert P. Weller
    Part III. Expedients of the Local State: Bargains and Deals:
    6. Seeing like a grassroots state: producing power and instability in China's bargained authoritarianism Ching Kwan Lee and Yong Hong Zhang
    7. Finding China's urban: bargained land conversions, local assemblages, and fragmented urbanization Luigi Tomba
    Part IV. Governance of the Individual and Techniques of the Self:
    8. Governing from the middle? Understanding the making of China's middle classes Jean-Louis Rocca
    9. A new urban underclass? Making and managing 'vulnerable groups' in contemporary China Patricia M. Thornton
    10. The policy innovation imperative: changing techniques for governing China's local governors Christian Göbel and Thomas Heberer.

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    To Govern China

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  • Editors

    Vivienne Shue, University of Oxford
    Vivienne Shue, F.B.A., was educated at Vassar College, New York, the University of Oxford and Harvard University, Massachusetts, in the 1960s and 1970s. Among the earliest American scholars to conduct fieldwork in rural China, she taught Chinese politics for more than twenty-five years at Yale University, Connecticut and Cornell University, New York, becoming best known for her publications on local-level government, political economy, and state-society relations. In 2002, as a Professor and Fellow of St Antony's College, she returned to Oxford to direct its Contemporary China Studies Programme. She is an Associate of the University of Oxford's China Centre.

    Patricia M. Thornton, University of Oxford
    Patricia M. Thornton is an associate professor at the University of Oxford whose research interests span the political, socio-economic, and cultural history of modern China. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to an An Wang Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Harvard University, Massachusetts. Also a tutor in the politics of China at Merton College, Oxford, she has lectured on the politics of China at the University of Oxford's Department of Politics and International Relations, and at the Oxford University China Centre, since 2008.


    Vivienne Shue, Patricia M. Thornton, Elizabeth J. Perry, Sebastian Heilmann, Joel Andreas, Yige Dong, Robert P. Weller, Ching Kwan Lee, Yong Hong Zhang, Luigi Tomba, Jean-Louis Rocca, Christian Göbel, Thomas Heberer

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