Lu, Jie. "Varieties of Governance in China: Migration and Institutional Change in Chinese Villages."(Book review)

Author:Wang, Hongjie

Lu, Jie. Varieties of Governance in China: Migration and Institutional Change in Chinese Villages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

The introduction of Village Committee Elections (VCEs) in rural China since the 1980s is one of the most influential changes after China fully embraced market-oriented reforms. The effectiveness of this grassroots democracy, however, has always been doubted by scholars of China due to dramatic differences in the quality of governance in villages across the county. A visitor may admire well-maintained paved roads in one village, but soon gets disappointed by the muddy trail full of livestock excrement in another village. Why do institutions that follow the same design vary significantly? Why do some village committees with publicly recognized authority based on democratic elections perform more effectively in sustaining local governance and providing public services, while in some other places the committee proves to be dysfunctional and the residents never trust local cadres and would rather seek help from indigenous clan organizations? Indeed, what are the underlying factors that drive such differences? Varieties of Governance in China: Migration and Institutional Change in Chinese Villages provides a unique view to examine varied performance and effectiveness of different types of institutions, convincingly revealing that rural-urban migration coupled with other conditions in the transition from agrarian to industrial societies constitutes the main reason behind villagers' choices in institutions and the varied quality of local governance in rural China.

The book is organized into eight chapters including an introduction (chapter 1), a conclusion (chapter 7) and an epilogue (chapter 8). After stating the scope and methods in chapter 2, the author's detailed exploration evolves logically in the following four chapters. Chapter 3 documents the history of indigenous relation-based institutions in rural China and how such institutions' performance has been affected by the changing socioeconomic and political environments, especially after China's reforms in the 1980s as more and more peasants moved to cities to seek opportunities. This significant but unevenly distributed migration toward cities created communities with varied settings for the practice of different institutions. Chapter 4 focuses on the provision of local public goods as a key indicator of the quality of local governance in rural China...

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