2 September 2022

ThinkChina Analysis: Implementation Variations Under Authoritarianism: An Exploratory Analysis of Social Policy Reformulation

National Congress of the Communist Party of China

How do Chinese provinces redefine central policies in the local context? What are the leading strategies of policy reformulation in local China? In this paper, Yi Ma, postdoc at the University of Copenhagen, and Chunrong Liu, associate professor at Fudan University, depart from the existing studies taking a dominant implementation outcome approach to study implementation variations in China. In particular, they propose an implementation output approach and probe the ways that sub-national actors receive and reformulate policy from the center. Their implementation output approach informs a typology of reformulation characterized by four scenarios: innovative strategy, defensive strategy, conservative strategy and perfunctory strategy. Using this analytical tool, they go beyond case studies on implementation gap by creating a novel dataset - the Provincial Implementation Output of State Council’s Social Policy Opinions (2003-2017). Their empirical analysis presents a more systematic picture about the regional variations of implementation and suggests new research agenda about implementation dynamics under authoritarianism.

Key Takeaways

  • Provincial policy reformulations can be divided into four categories: 
    • Innovative, defensive, conservative, and perfunctory.
  • Many provinces adopt a leading strategy of being innovative, or defensive, or conservative.
  • Many provinces change their leading strategies from the Hu and Wen period to Xi and Li period.
  • Different provinces are responding very differently to the central incentive.  
  • The central government remains powerful regardless of centralization or decentralization.

Keywords: China, Policy Implementation, Policy Reformulation.

Read and download here.