Supportive Agency and the Statization of Local Governance: The Practice of Power of the Village Governance Body in the Context of Transformation


In: Rural China
Wei Shi (石伟) School of Sociology and Political Science, Anhui University (安徽大学社会与政治学院) Hefei China

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Guoli Dong (董国礼) School of Social and Public Administration, East China University of Science and Technology (华东理工大学社会与公共管理学院) Shanghai China

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The practice of power of the village governance body is an important perspective from which to understand the form of local governance as well as a crucial aspect of the capacity of local governance. In local government building, the village governance body has the special feature of supportive agency – that is, the secretary of the village Party committee has only incomplete governance power, but he/she does have the power to allocate resources in the village. Different from the personalization of power in an oligarchy, the power of a supportive agent is something that local rural elites rely on to gain resources. They then use those resources as a hook to draw in other participants and use public rules to embed themselves into the governance of village affairs, thereby forming the power structure of the grassroots community. The network of power and interests in the interaction between township and village and the pattern of profit-sharing in the village constitute the basis for this practice of power under supportive agency. The supportive relationship between local government and village cadres has led to a separation between the cadres and the peasants, a rupture of the state-peasant relationship, increasing social differentiation, and weakened village autonomy. The practice of supportive agency reflects changes in the logic of local governance – local autonomy has been turned into local governance statization. Thus, in these circumstances, in order to achieve a successful transition to modernized local governance, the linkage between the state and the peasants should be rebuilt, and the local organization of governance should be reshaped.

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