Grassroots Governance in Urban China: Transition, Power Operation, and Findings from Beijing

University essay from Lunds universitet/Centrum för öst- och sydöstasienstudier

Abstract: This thesis reveals the process of the elimination of the danwei system and the establishment of the shequ system. How power operates in grassroots urban governance is asked in this thesis. By adopting a framework of power theory and data from the two-period fieldwork, this thesis has two findings. First, in terms of Chinese grassroots governance, power penetrates structurally and individually. The structural power is defined as the ability entitled by the political structure, which can make things happen, prevent something, or create a discourse. It is reflected by the practice of dual system and of deliberative democracy in shequ. As the extension of structural power, individual power brings both broader boundary of grassroots leader’s behavior and more pressure. Second, power is reacted differently. The grassroots leaders in urban area react to superior power with more autonomy than the ones in the rural area. Activists in shequ react to power positively either for the mental legacy of the pre-reform era or for the sense of belonging. In contrast, the inactive majority prefers to keep a distance from the local authority.

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