Local People's Congresses in China: Development and Transition

By Sun, Ying | Journal of East Asian Studies, September-December 2009 | Go to article overview

Local People's Congresses in China: Development and Transition


Sun, Ying, Journal of East Asian Studies


Local People's Congresses in China: Development and Transition. By Young Nam Cho. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 206 pp. $80.00 (cloth).

In this book, Young Nam Cho, of Seoul National University, addresses major function fulfillment of Local People's Congresses (LPCs) in China. The author attracts readers with two key questions: What are the functions of the LPCs, and how well do they fulfill them? What obstacles have the LPCs overcome, and what developmental strategies have they employed to reach their current political status? These two research questions bridge the gap between international comparative legislative studies and the study of Chinese contemporary politics.

To answer these questions, the author adopts the traditional methodology of comparative legislative studies--that is, he takes a structural-functional approach. Using a structural approach, the research investigates the LPCs' relationships and interactions with other state organs such as local governments and courts, as well as the Chinese Communist Party; using a functional approach, the research analyzes the legislation, supervision, and representation functions of LPCs. Besides traditional methods, the author also applies three perspectives to study the LPCs' development: the perspective of marketization and legalization, the perspective of actual power relations, and the perspective of path dependence. These perspectives help readers to understand the background of and process by which the roles of Chinese local legislatures have been reinforced.

To find reliable answers to the research questions, the author selects LPCs in Shanghai and Tianjin municipalities and Guangdong province. According to the author, these regions have led economic reforms in China, and thus the LPCs in these regions are the most representative of legislative development in China. The author interviewed senior leaders, officials, and staffers from the selected congresses, as well as insiders from governments and social organizations for first-hand materials. The author even stayed in Tianjin for one year to conduct interviews and to collect literary resources. In addition to field study, the book also relies on a wide range of literary documents, both in Chinese and in English.

Arranged by research topic, this book can be divided into four parts. The first part (Chapter 1) explains the research questions, main arguments, methodology, and layout of the book. The second part (Chapters 2-5) examines the lawmaking, oversight, and representation functions of local legislatures in China. These chapters also demonstrate the techniques used by the local legislatures and legislators to fulfill those functions. The third part (Chapters 6 and 7) investigates the relationship between LPCs and their external environment, namely, the social organizations and party committees. These two external variables provide both "bottom-up" motor and "top-down" initiative to the LPCs' development. The fourth part (Chapter 8) discusses the consequences of LPCs' empowerment vis-a-vis Chinese political development. It is argued that if political development refers to democratization and is marked by free elections and multiparty competition, the empowerment of Chinese local legislatures per se has had limited impact; if political development is understood as state capacity building and institutionalization of the political system, then the growth of the legislative branch has contributed significantly to China's political development. …

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