The Decision-Making Process of the Chinese Government at the County Level

By Zhu, Qianwei | Public Administration Quarterly, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

The Decision-Making Process of the Chinese Government at the County Level


Zhu, Qianwei, Public Administration Quarterly


ABSTRACT

The model of decision-making process of the Chinese government at the county level is one in which three decision-makers, namely the county committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the county government, and the county people's congress, join together with the party as the most important player. The coexistence of strict structure settled by law and non-strict structure by the party's policies has both advantages and disadvantages in the Chinese context. In a long run, strict structure is a way out for a better decision-making process.

INTRODUCTION

The decision-making process of the Chinese government is a relatively closed area. How is government policy formulated? Who are the decision-makers? What is the relationship among them? What are the variables on which policy-making depends? All of these questions are of great interest to China watchers. The investigation of one hundred counties, as part of a research project on Chinese society launched a decade ago, has offered some useful information at the county level. This article, to a large degree, is based on these materials and some interviews with county leader.

PARTICIPANTS IN THE PROCESS

The participants in the decision-making process at the county level of the Chinese government include the CCP county committee, the county government, and the county's people congress. In reality, the CCP organizations not only participate in the government decision-making process but, more importantly, have the final say. The Chinese Constitution confirms the party's leadership in China thereby paving the way for this pattern.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PP), the party's leadership of state affairs has undergone three periods. The first runs from 1949 to the mid-1980s during which the party's comprehensive leadership was practiced. As Mao (1990:95) explicitly indicated at a meeting of national finance in 1953, "all major and important problems should be discussed and settled by party committee first and then the decision is implemented by the government.

The CCP's comprehensive leadership has three implications. First, in terms of the relationship between the party and all other organizations, the latter must be placed under the leadership of the CCP. Second, in terms of relations between the superior and his/her subordinates, the latter must obey the former. Third, the whole party must obey the party's central committee. The CCP's comprehensive leadership went to extremes during the Cultural Revolution when the party became dominant in almost all political, social, and even private affairs.

The second period runs from the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 to 1989. In his 1980 speech on the reform of the leadership system of the party and government, Deng Ziaoping (1995) criticized the overconcentration of power in the CCP and the overlapping of the functions of the party and the government. His comment led to the constitutional reform which established the single head responsible system in public administration in 1982 and later the reform of the political system which was approved in the 13th party's congress in 1987. As the report of that party pointed out, the role of the party in enterprise was to supervise and the comprehensive leadership by the party should never be practiced again. The CCP committees should learn to support managers rather than take a lead themselves, to play the role of supervision, and to set up the single head responsible system ("Report," 1991).

The separation of the roles between the party and the government redefined the party's leadership. As was pointed out in the report of the 13th party's congress, local party committees' responsibility includes: a. implementing directions from the party organizations at the higher level; b. ensuring that directions from the government at the higher level are carried out; c. making decisions on great issues; and d. …

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