Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Chinese Public Administration: Change with Continuity during Political and Economic Development

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Chinese Public Administration: Change with Continuity during Political and Economic Development

Article excerpt

A decade ago in this journal, Worthley (1984) argued that public administration in the People's Republic of China was becoming ripe for comparative analysis. Since then, China has experienced extraordinary economic growth and has initiated major administrative reform efforts in government. Studies of the development of Chinese public administration over these years, though few, have been impressive, particularly in view of the lack of scholarly attention in previous decades. (See, for example, Laaksonen, 1988; Cabestan, 1192; Tsao, 1993 and Mills and Nagel, 1993.) There has, however, been meager empirical and comparative analysis. This article, based on the authors, empirical research over a ten-year period, describes and analyzes the development of modern Chinese public administration into the 1990s. Our focus is the effort in China to reform the administrative structure during a period of political and economic change, with particular emphasis on the civil service system. The analysis is designed to contribute to the on-going process of understanding administrative development across cultures. As will become apparent, we found continuing similarities with the historical development of public administration in the United States.

Civil Service Reform

On October 1, 1993, the Chinese government marked a milestone in the history of its administrative state. On that day, it officially adopted the "Regulations on State Functionaries" the equivalent of the "Pendleton Act" that established the civil service system of the United States a century before. For purposes of comparative analysis, it is important to understand the process that produced this milestone as well as the actual substance of the reform.

Prior to this new act, Chinese civil servants were recruited through political channels rather than by open, competitive examination. There was little or no differentiation of personnel among the many public service areas. They were all simply called "cadre" with the political party solely responsible for managing them. There were only vague procedures for recruitment, promotion, appraisal, and the like (Li, 1990; 164; Manion; 1985, 210), with the result that administrative proficiency was wanting. As the economic reforms of the 1970s and 1980s took hold and the nation modernized, this became an obstacle to continued constructive development. The government's ability to manage economic growth was dubious and administrative corruption was growing.

In response, the 1993 act was conceived to provide substantive advancement of routines, rationality, and professionalism in the Chinese civil service. Indeed, a comparison with the content of the Pendleton Act reveals remarkable similarities. Chapter 1 articulates the intent of the new law: (T)o facilitate the scientific management of state functionaries, ensure honesty and enhance administrative efficiency, {article 1}; "to the purpose of hiring people with both political integrity and ability arid to the principle of openness, equality, competition and selecting the best" {article 2}; and "that state functionaries perform their duties according to the law and be protected by the law" {article 4}. Chapter 2 describes the duties of civil servants as adherence to the law, responsiveness to the masses, impartiality and honesty, deference to authority and devotion to work {article 6}.

Chapter 3 delineates job categories, distinguishing between leadership and nonleadership positions. Fifteen grades are specified {article 10}. Chapter 4 sets forth recruitment procedures including public examinations and Interviews for career, nonleadership positions {article 16}, and preferential treatment for minority applicants article 13. Chapter 5 details appraisal procedures that emphasize concrete results of work, article 20.

A whole section, chapter 6, is devoted to performance rewards stressing "the principle of combining spiritual and material encouragement" {article 27}. …

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