How Cohesive is the Chinese Bureaucracy? A Case Study of Street-level Bureaucrats in China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-226
Journal / PublicationPublic Administration and Development
Issue number3
Online published13 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


Institutional analyses of the developmental state claim that the principal source of state capacity is internal cohesiveness, which is defined as the tendency for the rank and file of the civil service to be in unity while working together towards national goals. In the literature on the China model, the strong capacity of the Chinese state has been taken for granted, and internal cohesiveness in the Chinese bureaucracy has not been problematized. This knowledge gap is narrowed by studying data on the Bureau of Urban Management (i.e. Chengguan) in China. Recent studies are reviewed of bureaucratic logics and behaviour that question the extent of collaboration between higher authorities and their subordinates (i.e. vertical cohesiveness) in China. Next, the essay theorizes about how these bureaucratic logics may also undermine collaboration among government bureaus (horizontal cohesiveness). Background information is offered about Chengguan and reports on the challenges identified by Chengguan officers to work with people in other bureaus. The research does not find any solid evidence of horizontal cohesiveness in the Chinese bureaucracy. This calls for an effort to reassess the validity of the China model. 

Research Area(s)

  • China model, governance, state capacity, street-level bureaucrats

Bibliographic Note

Research Unit(s) information for this publication is provided by the author(s) concerned.