Future of China’s Central-Local Relations

Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 12:00 pm
Friend Center Convocation Room
Free and Open to the Public
Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China

Lunch will be served.

The fate of reform depends on those charged with implementation.  The challenge is striking the right balance between central control and local discretion.  In contrast to much of the last 40 years of China’s unprecedented growth story, Xi Jinping has swung the pendulum decisively toward centralization and tightened control over the localities.  Oi examines the consequences of Xi’s centralization of power on China’s local led growth model by probing the case of the explosive growth of local government debt.  Xi’s cure has been to ratchet up the anti-corruption campaign and impose greater top-down regulation, blaming “bad people engaging in bad behavior”.  There has been corruption and lavish spending, but the door to massive local government debt was opened by Zhu Rongji, when he gave localities the right and tools to raise revenue to make up for loss tax revenues with the 1994 fiscal reforms.   If growth and debt have become conjoined twins in China’s developmental model, what is needed to solve the problem? What remedies has the regime proposed? How effective have these measure?  Has China reached the limits of what is possible without deep systemic reforms? 


Jean C. Oi is the William Haas Professor of Chinese Politics in the Department of Political Science and a Senior Fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.  She directs the China Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and is the Lee Shau Kee Director of the Stanford Center at Peking University.


Oi has published extensively on political economy and the process of reform in China, including Rural China Takes Off:  Institutional Foundations of Economic Reform,1999; Property Rights and Economic Reform in China, 1999, co-editor with Andrew Walder; and State and Peasant in Contemporary China: The Political Economy of Village Government,1989. Recent books include Zouping Revisited:  Adaptive Governance in a Chinese County, co-edited with Steven Goldstein (2018); and Challenges in the Process of China's Urbanization, co-edited with Karen Eggleston and Yiming Wang (2017).  Recent articles include “Reflections on 40 Years of Rural Reform,” in Jacques deLisle and Avery Goldstein, eds.,  Reform and Opening: 40 Years and Counting, Brookings, forthcoming; "Unpacking the Patterns of Corporate Restructuring during China's SOE Reform," co-authored with Xiaojun Li, Economic and Political Studies, 2018.  Oi, with Tom Fingar,  has an edited volume, “China’s Path to the Future: Challenges, Constraints, and Choices,” under review.


Current research is on fiscal reform and local government debt as well as continuing SOE reforms.   

Jean Oi

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