Multi-level Governance in Centralized State? Evidence from China after the Territorial Reforms


  • Liao Liao China South Normal University, School of Politics and Public Administration
  • Chunyu Shi Zhejiang Gongshang University, School of Public Management



local government, hierarchy, intergovernmental relations, multi-level governance, China


China has long been considered a centralized country. Over the last 30 years, several reforms have gradually transferred important powers to local levels, particularly counties. The article analyzes this evolution based on a field study in two provinces, Zhejiang and Sichuan. The hypothesis is that the transfer of initiatives has become a new way of ‘steering’ counties’ identities in China. This article is based on an analysis from two perspectives. The first is an institutional perspective concerning financial, administrative, and political reform in China; the second is a neo-institutional perspective that examines counties’ identities and the role county-level actors play in territorial development and intergovernmental relations within their provinces.


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