Roots of the State: Neighborhood Organization and Social Networks in Beijing and Taipei

By Benjamin L. Read | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
Power Relations at the Alley Level

What is the nature of constituents’ relations with their lizhang and residents’ committees (RCs)? Do residents shun or embrace these organizations, which work so closely with the state, and in many respects extend its reach into the intimate residential environment of the neighborhood? To what extent must they fear the power of these intermediaries or develop clientlike dependency on them? At this point, we turn from looking at the neighborhood organizations as institutions to analyzing the ways in which they interact with constituents on an everyday basis. The previous chapter established one major element of the relationship between constituents and local leaders: the extent to which the former have direct electoral control over the selection of the latter. But these elections, be they fair or stage-managed, happen only once every few years. A complete answer to the above questions must strive for a full-spectrum understanding of local power dynamics. We begin by exploring the neighborhoods’ connection to higher levels of city governance, then ask exactly what kinds of carrots and sticks the RC’s and lizhang have at their disposal to apply or withhold in dealings with residents.

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