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Issue 69 (January 2013)
Tao Sherry Kong and Jonathan Unger
“Egalitarian Redistributions of Agricultural Land in China through Community Consensus: Findings from Two Surveys
Most of China’s rural communities have engaged in periodic reallocations of fields in order to re-equalize household landholdings on a per capita basis, despite a national law that prohibits this. The practice of re-equalizing landholdings tells us much about the rural household economy, farmers’ perceptions of property rights and grass-roots community cohesion. Based on two questionnaire surveys of more than 600 villager small groups (former production teams) in Anhui Province, this paper explains why such land reallocations have occurred, which types of villages have most often engaged in this egalitarian practice, and how and why the practice has altered during the last 15 years as rural conditions change.
Judicial Innovation and Local Politics: Judicialization of Administrative Governance in East China
Drawing on data from a mid-sized city in eastern China, this article examines interactions among the courts, the Party and other administrative agencies. It finds that, caught between unruly administrative agencies and legal rhetoric, the courts seek support from the Party to enhance their authority. They then devise tactics such as putting agencies’ chief official on the stand, issuing judicial suggestions and applying the laws in innovative ways. These are often effective, because agencies adjust their behaviors accordingly. Contrary to conventional wisdom that the courts are only a passive actor in local politics, their role in translating national laws into local practice is by no means negligible. By exploring the dynamics of court–government relations in the context of administrative litigation, this article argues that local politics is a crucial factor in determining the trajectory of China’s judicialization of administrative governance, and rule of law more generally.
Court Funding and Judicial Corruption in China
Few empirical studies have established a relationship between court funding and judicial corruption in China. It is widely assumed that inadequate court funding erodes justice through denying access to the “have-nots”, giving courts an incentive to delay cases and jeopardizing judicial autonomy. I test this theory using qualitative interviews in seven Chinese provinces and a quantitative analysis of two original data sets of Chinese counties and cities. I demonstrate that underfunded courts are more likely to be perceived as corrupt, and further propose direct measures of court funding and perceived judicial fairness.
Political Economy of the Advancing State: The Case of China’s Airlines Reform
This article traces the circuitous route of China’s airlines industry into the ranks of China’s strategic sectors. Although the airlines industry now belongs to a small group of industries characterized by oligopoly among state-owned enterprises, its initial reform pathway in the post-Mao era hinted at a different future. In the early years of the reform period, a decentralist approach to developing the industry laid the groundwork for an open market structure with a comparatively low degree of state intervention. Why was this trajectory of gradual state retreat abruptly reversed in 1997? In that year, regulators began a bold retrenchment leading finally to an administrative restructuring of the industry around the “Big Three” state-owned carriers. This article argues that this policy reversal was shaped by the state’s increasing emphasis on developing a team of state-controlled national champions.
Wen-Hsuan Tsai and Nicola Dean
“The CCP’s Learning System: Thought Unification and Regime Adaptation
In an attempt to mold itself into a “learning Party”, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has recently borrowed the theory of the “learning organization”, a concept derived from Western management. This article argues that, in the process of molding the CCP into a “learning Party”, President Hu Jintao has employed two functions of learning inherited from Party history—thought unification and regime adaptation—to reinforce his own political legitimacy and, accordingly, that of the entire CCP regime. In effect, Hu has created a “learning system”: from collective study by the Politburo, down to study sessions at every level of the Party, Hu is able to disseminate his personal concepts of governance and lay out doctrine for the entire Party. Although Hu Jintao’s personal prestige is limited, and not all inner Party policies are guided by the “learning system”, this structure still smoothes the way for the implementation of many of Hu’s policies.
Katherine A. Mason
To Your Health! Toasting, Intoxication and Gendered Critique among Banqueting Women
Women entered government public health institutions in China in large numbers in the 2000s, thanks to a national professionalization project prioritizing meritocratic recruitment. To their disappointment, however, one of the consequences of their new professional involvement was that they were expected to drink heavily alongside men at frequent guanxi-building banquets. They responded by redefining heavy alcohol consumption as a morally deficient act that should have no place in government institutions. Their growing numbers and higher levels of educational achievement, their ability to draw upon gendered norms to prioritize familial relationships and individual responsibilities, their investment in disentangling individual professional development from drinking capabilities and their ability to demonstrate the possibility of building networks without mutual intoxication allowed them to push this critique forward in ways that men could not. Their efforts met with limited success, however: while the role of alcohol in the building of guanxi was diminished, the women did not manage to eliminate the perceived necessity of banqueting.
“Same–same but different: Chinese Traders’ Perspectives on African Labor
Abstract: This article analyzes labor conflicts in Chinese trade businesses in Ghana. After introducing the general situation of Chinese trading companies and the labor market in Ghana, I explore the factors that tend to make Chinese–African employment relations in the trading sector dysfunctional and conflict-prone. In a qualitative ethnographic account, I investigate recruitment processes, interpersonal relationships, concepts of authority, and sanctions and incentives, and elaborate on the specificities of diverging interpretations of reciprocity, social roles, practices and related symbolic significations within the interpersonal relations between Chinese employers and Ghanaian employees. I argue that these dimensions of interpersonal relations are crucial for understanding the development of conflict in the economic field analyzed, and also suggest an alternative reading of Chinese–African industrial labor conflicts, which have so far been discussed exclusively in terms of violations of formal regulations by Chinese enterprises, and their exploitative and abusive practices.
The CEO of the Utopian Project: Deng Xiaoping’s Roles and Activities in the Great Leap Forward
This article examines how Deng Xiaoping actively participated in, effectively implemented and strictly supervised Mao’s notorious utopian project, the Great Leap Forward, which claimed the lives of tens of millions of Chinese people. The paper will also consider the negative influences of Deng on the political processes of the Chinese Communist Party during the devastating campaign.