Administrative reform in China's central government - How much 'learning from the West'?

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalNot applicablepeer-review

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Author(s)

  • Tom Christensen
  • Dong Lisheng
  • Martin Painter

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-371
Journal / PublicationInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Volume74
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Abstract

The prevailing interpretation in the scholarly literature is that public sector reform in China during the period of marketization has been driven primarily by internal, contextual factors rather than being under the sway of particular global reform models or theories such as New Public Management. The aim of this article is to move beyond arguing from inference that 'Chinese characteristics' continue to be dominant and to inquire into the manner and extent of external influences on central government reform actors. We assume a 'multi-causal' model in which both internal and external factors are present. From a survey of the literature on the reforms, we conclude that, while there are some 'unique' features, most of the themes (and even the results) of modern Chinese reforms are not unique and have parallels in Western countries. Moreover, aside from the similarities in the content and substance of administrative reforms, the patterns and styles of reform in China and in the West in the past 20 years show marked similarities and parallels. Thus, external reform ideas and influences are being diffused through reform processes. Further empirical and theoretical analysis is required to establish the more specific nature of scanning and dissemination, or other forms of diffusion; the kind of learning that is taking place; and the impact that any imported models or templates actually have on reform proposals and outcomes in particular reform episodes. Points for practitioners • Whereas many scholars tend to believe the lip service the Chinese leaders pay to the 'uniqueness' of China's public sector reforms and their 'Chinese characteristics', their leaders have been very eager to 'learn from the West'. • Emulation and learning at a global level are key aspects of contemporary public sector innovation and reform, even between jurisdictions that are seemingly very different from each other. • The development of sophisticated mechanisms for scanning and selective learning are key requirements for a rapidly developing public sector such as China's. © 2008 IIAS, SAGE Publications.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese public reforms, Emulation and learning, Imitation, Innovation

Citation Format(s)

Administrative reform in China's central government - How much 'learning from the West'? / Christensen, Tom; Lisheng, Dong; Painter, Martin.

In: International Review of Administrative Sciences, Vol. 74, No. 3, 2008, p. 351-371.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalNot applicablepeer-review