Administrative Authority-driven Public Engagement: A Case Study of Local Government’s Commendation Governance in China


  • Xiaomei Li Sichuan University, School of Public Administration
  • Liao Liao South China Normal University, School of Politics and Public Administration
  • Xingyun Zhu South China Normal University, School of Politics and Public Administration



public engagement, China local government, evaluation and commendation, engagement mechanism, governance performance


In recent years, China’s central government has focused strategically on motivating local governments to allocate more administrative resources to enhance performance in non-economic areas, such as environmental and cultural services. As a governance practice, the central government has initiated “evaluation and commendation” campaigns among local governments. The main governance objective of these local government campaigns is to solicit public engagement, including public participation, support, and actions. Based on a case study of the campaign to establish a National Civilised City, this paper presents the local government’s governance logic, operating mechanism, and governance performance in soliciting public engagement in “evaluation and commendation” activities. We find that in “evaluation and commendation” campaigns, characterised by short-term authority commendation incentives and shortage of governance resources, the local governments adopted the unusual governance mechanism of “administrative authority-driven public engagement”, using both flexible and mandatory strategies. The flexibility strategy leads to the active participation of citizens, but the mandatory strategy makes public engagement stay at the superficial level, characterised by surface-level cooperation and inner rejection, causing partial exclusion and separation between the government and the public, in turn exhibiting a “ratchet effect” in governance performance.


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