Academic journal article Public Administration Research

Citizen Participation in the Public Policy Process in China: Based on Policy Network Theory

Academic journal article Public Administration Research

Citizen Participation in the Public Policy Process in China: Based on Policy Network Theory

Article excerpt


This article based on policy network theory analyzes the internal and external factors affecting citizen participation in the public policy process in the Chinese context. It displays that the policy network resources possessed by citizen are in a lower level and that their policy belief perform unreasonable or obscured, which belong to the internal factors. Besides, it also shows how the external factors, including policy network circumstance and policy network interactions among citizen and other network actors, influence citizen participation. In terms of these factors, the article provides some policies and suggestions about improving and motivating citizen participation for policy makers in taking account of how to reinforce the effect on citizen participation in the public policy process when making policies. Finally, we conclude that other network actors have not been researched deeply and further research should be laid in mass media, experts and scholars, grass-root NGO, etc.

Keywords: citizen participation, public policy process, policy network, network resources, policy belief, network interaction

1. Introduction

"Citizen participation" is a fundamental issue in the field of political philosophy (Webler & Renn, 1995). The earliest description about citizen participation originated from Ecclesia of Athens. At that time, every Greek ancient city-state could be viewed as a city society which was composed of all the citizens and emphasized freedom, democracy and autonomy. At the age of Virginia and New England colonial settlements, decision-making power was seized in the hands of those free, White, property-owning, adult male and elite citizens (Roberts, 2004). With the time advanced and the history developed, the scope of citizen participation gradually expanded. The power and right possessed by citizen also became greater and greater.

Citizen participation mainly discusses the redistribution of citizen power, including how the information is shared; how goals and policies are made, how tax resources are distributed; how programs are operated and how interest relationships are configurated (Amstein, 1969). As for the merits and demerits of citizen participation in government decision making, Irvin and Stansbury (2004) made a clear analysis about advantages and disadvantages to citizen participants and government from the aspects of decision process and outcomes. They argued that citizen participation could promote citizen participants to acquire related skills and some control over policy process, but it existed the problems of time consuming and detrimental outcomes if serious affected by some interest groups. Although citizen participation is not thought to be perfect both from the theory and the practice, it is not easy to avoid citizen participation in researching public policy process and government decision-making when democratic politics develop increasingly and citizen awareness improve gradually. Particularly under the background of advocating the new governance all around the world, this theory framework not only refer to political tools but also practice and process for citizen to participate in the work of government (Bingham, Nabatchi & O'Leary, 2005).

Since the reform and opening policy of China started, Chinese leaders have been sticking to lay more emphasis on the significance of citizen participation orderly. The fifth Plenary Session of the 15th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (short for CPC) in 2000 passed "Report on the Outline of the tenth five-year Plan for National Economic and Social Development", in which the concept of "citizen participation" was identified for the first time and the proposition about "expanding citizen participation orderly" was also put forward. Furthermore, Report on the 17th National Congress of CPC in 2007 indicated that "we should persist in all the rights of the state belonging to the citizen" and that "we should expand the scope of citizen political participation orderly from all levels and all areas". …

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