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Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China

Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China

Edited by Elizabeth J. Perry and Merle Goldman

ISBN 9780674024861

Publication date: 03/31/2007

Observers often note the glaring contrast between China's stunning economic progress and stalled political reforms. Although sustained growth in GNP has not brought democratization at the national level, this does not mean that the Chinese political system has remained unchanged. At the grassroots level, a number of important reforms have been implemented in the last two decades.

This volume, written by scholars who have undertaken substantial fieldwork in China, explores a range of grassroots efforts--initiated by the state and society alike--intended to restrain arbitrary and corrupt official behavior and enhance the accountability of local authorities. Topics include village and township elections, fiscal reforms, legal aid, media supervision, informal associations, and popular protests. While the authors offer varying assessments of the larger significance of these developments, their case studies point to a more dynamic Chinese political system than is often acknowledged. When placed in historical context--as in the Introduction--we see that reforms in local governance are hardly a new feature of Chinese political statecraft and that the future of these experiments is anything but certain.


  • This volume indicates the nature of political reform and protest that have accompanied China’s rapid economic development of recent years. In 12 chapters, 14 social scientists from North America, Hong Kong, and China report on a variety of grassroots efforts designed to restrain arbitrary and corrupt official behavior, and to make local government officials more accountable to the public. Based on fieldwork conducted throughout China, the scholars examine cases of village and township elections, fiscal problems of local government, traditional local social institutions, homeowners’ groups, legal aid, labor, and environmental protest, as well as opportunities and limitations on media reporting of official behavior...The volume provides fascinating material on the dynamics of grassroots protests, and is an able companion to Kevin J. O’Brien and Linjiang Li’s Rightful Resistance in Rural China.

    —G.A. McBeath, Choice


  • Elizabeth J. Perry is Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute.
  • Merle Goldman is Professor of History, Emerita, at Boston University and Associate of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 416 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press