Beyond the Two Capitals
This study focused on Beijing and Taipei. Here I explain this emphasis on just one city in the People’s Republic of China and one in the Republic of China, and also supplement it with perspectives obtained from short visits to other cities. Creating a full empirical portrait of neighborhood organizations throughout all of China and Taiwan was not my goal; rather, it was to explore the theoretical questions laid out in Chapter 1. Even if these capitals turned out to be very different from other places in terms of the political, economic, and social environment in which neighborhoods are governed, they would still be important cases with much to teach us about administrative grassroots engagement. Nonetheless, intercity comparison is by no means irrelevant. No doubt this would not be the exact same book if it compared, say, Guangzhou and Kaohsiung. The question is how different it would be.
Some research has already made progress in comparing neighborhood institutions among more than one of China’s cities (Derleth and Koldyk 2004; Heberer and Göbel 2011). But in the absence of data that could provide a rigorous comparison between random samples, making generalizations about intercity differences is challenging. It is difficult to know whether locally observed phenomena reflect factors at the individual or neighborhood level, for instance, or whether they represent systematic contrasts between cities. Nonetheless, the purpose of my short (three- to ten-day) visits to cities outside of Beijing and Taipei was to try to understand, in rough terms, how RCs