Public Sector Reform and the State: The Case of China

By Burns, John P. | Public Administration Quarterly, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Public Sector Reform and the State: The Case of China


Burns, John P., Public Administration Quarterly


ABSTRACT

Administrative reform in China has followed a different path from reform in OECD countries. Because of its different point of departure (relatively underdeveloped, centrally planned economy, and one party monopoly) reform in China has included establishing a market economy, strengthening market regulations, and institutionalizing the civil service. There are some similarities between China and OECD countries, however. Both China and developed capitalist democracies have tried to downsize their public sectors, corporatize some government departments, and decentralize administration. Contrary to the stated policy goals of the Chinese government, the net result of these changes has been to strengthen the state. Moreover, reform has left both the developmental and predatory natures of the Chinese state intact. There is some evidence, however, that the Chinese state is now seeking to become more "neutral" vis-a-vis society.

INTRODUCTION

Spared by economic crises and informed by the New Right, public-sector reform in developed capitalist democracies has involved decentralization, deregulation, privatization, and "marketization " (Lane, 1997:1; Rainey, 1998: 19; Hood, 1991). The implication of these changes was that the size and role of the state would shrink. According to this scenario, a lean core state would remain to manage most activities indirectly. Most public goods and services would be provided by business-like executive agencies or by the private sector and non-profit organizations under contract.

Globalization and the need to compete in an increasingly integrated market have had an impact on developing countries as well and they, too, have been encouraged to reform their public sectors. Because China has come to public sector reform from a radically different starting point from developed capitalist democracies (relatively underdeveloped, centrally planned, and ruled by a one-party monopoly), reform in the world's most populous country has taken its own path. Still, reform in China has also sought a smaller, less intrusive state. This goal is neatly captured in the official Chinese slogan: "small government, large society."

The evidence now indicates, however, that in spite if years of reform both in China and overseas, the position of the state remains relatively strong. The statist orientation of public-sector reform is evident in the western democracies. In OECD countries, for example, although the size of the civil service has shrunk in many cases (including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA), public expenditure as a percentage of gross national product has remained remarkably stable (Ferlie et al. 1996:2-3) because "the public sector continues to finance and deliver core goods and services that are of major significance to society as a whole: health, education, research and development, criminal justice, and social security" (Ibid., 3).

In China, the case is even clearer. Not only has the size of the public sector, especially the government, been immune to years of attempted downsizing but also the position of the state as a result of public sector reform, especially the local state, remains as strong as ever. The goal of "small government, large society" has yet to be realized.

CONTEXT

China is divided into 30 provinces or provincial-level units ranging in population from 2 million (Tibet) to over 110 million (Sichuan) people. Average provincial population is 30 to 40 million, larger than the population of many countries. Provinces are subdivided into prefectures (there were 110 such units by the end of 1997) or prefectural cities (22 in 1997). Prefectures in turn are subdivided into counties (1,693 in 1997) or county-level cities (442). Cities are further divided into 727 districts (State Statistical Bureau, 1998:3). Territorially based party committees, each with its own bureaucracy, manage the government and the economy at each administrative level (Lieberthal, 1995). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Public Sector Reform and the State: The Case of China
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.