Chinese Journal of Sociology ›› 2016, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (5): 107-130.

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The Control,Discretion,and Policy Implementation of Local Authorities in Rural China

TAO Yu1, HOU Linke2, LIU Mingxing3   

  1. 1. University of Central Lancashire, United KingdomAuthor;
    2. The Center for Economic Research, Shandong UniversityAuthor;
    3. China Institute for Educational Finance Research, Peking University
  • Online:2016-09-20 Published:2016-09-20
  • Supported by:

    The article was funded by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2013M531570), Young Scholars' Teamwork Project, Independent Innovation Foundation of Shandong University (IFYT1223), and Independent Innovation Foundation of Shandong University (2012GN037).


Drawing upon representative national survey data collected in 2000, 2004, and 2007, this paper systematically examines how township and village authorities in contemporary rural China actually implement the policies and instructions that they receive from above. The empirical evidence reveals the following. First, the actual situation of policy implementation in contemporary rural China is often jointly determined by the controlling powers that upper-level authorities have over their subordinate agencies on the one hand, and the discretion enjoyed by the latter on the other. Second, the interactions between upper-level authorities and their subordinate agencies vary across different governmental levels and policy fields. County authorities are more capable in controlling over township authorities, but township authorities often have relatively weaker control over village authorities. Such a pattern was reinforced after the rural taxation reform in early 2000s. In addition, this paper also demonstrates that local authorities in contemporary rural China tend to prioritise activities which can bring about direct benefits to them, even when such activities are not regarded as priorities by their higher-ups.

Key words: controlling power, selective implementation, discretion, local power structure, policy implementation