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Issue 51 (January 2004)
Mark W. Frazier
China's Pension Reform and Its Discontents
This article shows how pension reform in China created a fragmented, decentralized structure in which responsibilities for both the provision of pension benefits and the collection of pension fund revenues have fallen to local urban governments. The absence of pension legislation in China is unique in comparative perspective, and many PRC policy analysts and officials have called for such a law. This article shows that even in the absence of pension legislation, officials, enterprise managers, employees and pensioners have remedied violations and redressed grievances using a decentralized regulatory framework.
The "End of Politics" In Beijing
Like other mature authoritarian regimes before it, China has experienced a de-politicization of government in recent years. This is evident in the reduction of sanctioned contestation at the national level and in the promotion of economic and procedural solutions to governance problems. A key explanation of this change may be the disappearance of Party elders whose presence allowed greater contestation to exist in the 1980s and early 1990s. It exacts costs in terms of misgovernance and elite instability. It may be broken, however, by a combination of elite opportunism and popular mobilization that would usher in political change.
The Rise of the Community in Rural China: Village Politics, Cultural Identity and Religious Revival in a Hui Hamlet
This is a case study of a remote Hui community in Yunnan Province that underwent an Islamic revival at the turn of the twenty-first century. The case study offers insights into the ways in which rural communities are struggling to rebuild identity, safeguard interests, defend rights and create opportunities for social and economic development. While the study centres on a Hui Chinese community, it more broadly exemplifies how rural communities are able to assert themselves within the economic, political and cultural space created by the diminished presence of the state.
Kevin J. O'Brien and Lianjiang Li
Suing the Local State: Administrative Litigation in Rural China
This article examines the dynamics of administrative litigation in rural China. It shows how local officials often attempt to preempt, derail or undermine administrative lawsuits by blocking access to official documents and regulations, pressuring courts to reject cases, failing to appear in court or perjuring themselves, discrediting attorneys, and intimidating litigants. It also discusses, however, how villagers fight back by drawing in sympathetic elites (such as people's congress deputies and the media), mobilizing collective appeals and staging public protests. The paper concludes that administrative litigation provides a useful window on Chinese state-society relations and on the interplay of legal and political mobilization. It also suggests that, should more villagers incorporate administrative litigation into their repertoire of contention, a reform designed to extend the life of an authoritarian regime may play a part in nudging China a step closer to rule of law.
The Victory of Materialism: Aspirations to Join China's Urban Moneyed Classes and the Commercialization of Education
An important component of the Chinese government's strategy to modernize China entails enhancing the social and political status of a new moneyed urban middle class, particularly white-collar professionals and private entrepreneurs. This article examines the effects on popular attitudes of the regime's emphasis on performance and material success as source of status - including the acceptance of growing social stratification. It argues that 'value', in a material sense, has become a key indicator of worth. Thus, upwardly mobile people are reluctant to interact with those from lower social strata, for fear that such contact will tarnish their image. Money has also become essential for success across generations, by way of an increasingly commercialized educational system where access to schooling has become increasingly dependent on one's family wealth. What is striking is the open acceptance of these changes by the Party-state, including a shift in criteria for membership of the Communist Party. Given this reshaping of regime norms and their acceptance, it is not surprising that individuals are now much more willing to acknowledge their selfish motivations and, even more, the selfish motivations of others.
Creating an Urban Middle Class: Social Engineering in Beijing
This article addresses the issue of Chinese state engineering of an urban middle class in Beijing. Its major argument is that urban dwellers with closer ties to the public sector and better access to traditional forms of welfare have benefited comparatively more than other groups from the redistribution and privatization of public assets and from policies to improve consumption in urban areas. The author investigates in particular the impact of urban housing reform on this process of polarization, the increasing residential segregation of the professional middle-class and the effects of this process on neighborhood politics, the emergence of self-conscious communities of interests, and the self-organization of autonomous activist groups.