lørdag 6. mai 2023

For China’s Urban Residents, the Party-State Is Closer than Ever

In a recent working paper, scholars Yutian An and Taisu Zhang argue that local urban governments in China emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with far more muscle and clout than they have ever had before. Unlike in the past several decades, the sub-district (jiedao, the lowest formal level of government) and the neighborhood community (shequ, technically self-governing entities below even the sub-district) now function as robust units of social control.

Though the central government had long considered—and vacillated over—giving more authority to the jiedao and shequ, the onset of the pandemic definitively tipped the balance in favor of providing these entities with greater resources and allowing them to act with more agency. This shift means that the Party-state is more present in people’s everyday lives, able to both provide services and conduct surveillance at a highly granular level.

Taisu Zhang recently spoke with ChinaFile’s Jessica Batke about this momentous change in how the Party-state interacts with its citizens. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.