SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS IN CHINA: Reforms and Institutional Constraints
Tao-chiu, Lam, Perry, Jerry L., Policy Studies Review
SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS: THE BIG SHADOW OF THE STATE
In a socialist state such as China, the public sector is expansive, so much so that before the reform era it was virtually impossible to distinguish between the state and society, and between the public and private sectors. Since the 1950s, the Chinese state has comprised three institutional components: the administrative agencies (xingzhengjiguan), service organizations (shiye danwei), and economic enterprises (qiye). These categories remain the key concepts for understanding the Chinese State. Of these three categories of organizations, the most unique, and probably most difficult to understand, is the service organizations. They find no exact parallel in Western countries, although many organizations falling into this category surely exist in Western countries.
In China, service organizations are distinguished from the administrative organs in that they do not have administrative functions and powers, i.e. they do not regulate the behavior of other bodies. On the other hand, they are distinguished from economic enterprises in that they are not supposed to be oriented to profits and the accumulation of wealth for the country. Service organization has often been used as a residual category; whenever an entity cannot be put into the other two categories it is classified as a service organization. As explained later, although there are some analytical dimensions separating a service organization from an administrative organ or a state enterprise, in reality, how a particular organization is categorized is often guided by other considerations, rendering this category even more messy.
Currently there are about 32 million state cadres in China. Only slightly more than 5 million of them are from the administrative agencies, while the service organizations and state economic enterprises account for 13.6 and 13.3 million cadres, respectively (Zhongyang jigou bianzhi weiyuanhui bangongshi benshu bianxiezu, 1993: 229). At the central level, service organizations account for about 2.4 million cadres, some 40 times the staffing for all central administrative agencies. At the local level, the staff establishment of service organizations is 3.85 times the staff establishment of local administrative agencies. Each year between one-third to one-fourth of the state budgetary expenditures go to the service organizations. The service organizations thus constitute a big shadow of the Chinese State. The expansive public sector has been under strain in China in recent years, and has been a major target of reform. Just as economic reform has sought to make state economic enterprises relatively autonomous entities, one of the main objectives of China's administrative reform is to de-couple the service organizations from the state and to make them more autonomous entities. In 1996, a long overdue strategy of reforming the service organizations was released.
This reform strategy seems to call for a type of organization that is analogous to the non-governmental organizations (i.e. the third sector) in Western countries that have become increasingly popular in recent years (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992). However, the reform of the service organizations in China is an extremely complicated matter. This article shows that the reform has to be undertaken in an institutional environment that is inherently at odds with its objective of making the service organizations more autonomous. Unlike the nonprofits in Western countries, the service organizations have to operate in a fundamentally different environment and institutional context.
China's reform has become a topic for much academic analysis in recent years. However, the service organizations have been virtually neglected. Most of the research on China's reform has focused either on state enterprises or the party-state itself, leaving this vast and messy shadow of the state in between state …
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Publication information: Article title: SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS IN CHINA: Reforms and Institutional Constraints. Contributors: Tao-chiu, Lam - Author, Perry, Jerry L. - Author. Journal title: Policy Studies Review. Volume: 18. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2001. Page number: 15. © 2000 Policy Studies Organization. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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