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Type: Thesis
Title: Chinese urban community construction as a grassroots governance strategy: social capital with Chinese characteristics.
Author: Zhao, Min
Issue Date: 2014
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: Since 1978, the implementation of reform agenda and opening up policy, China has undergone the most rapid economic change and along with a significant urbanization process, which has changed the social, political and cultural structures of Chinese society. However, social transition along with urbanization has caused widespread social problems and citizen dissatisfaction, to the point of threatening the Communist Party‘s (CCP) political legitimacy. To address this political decline the CCP organised a grassroots form of community-based response, titled the Community Construction Project in urban China. This was a top-down project designed to solve or at least ease many social problems caused by rapid urbanisation, the decline in the welfare policies associated with the danwei (work-unit, 单位) and to reaffirm support for the CCP within the community. It was also hoped that this would assist in, keep the society stable and peaceful in a period where material inequality was growing. This process can be read as top-down but reality has involved many social actors, such as governments at all levels, scholarly engagement in applied and theoretical research, social organizations and community residents. Therefore its actual practice and outcomes vary according to concrete social and material settings due to the interaction among these different actors. To understand the community construction project and its potential impacts on the future of Chinese society, this research systematically analyses the measures employed in urban community construction. Since community construction is an organized project, covering many aspects of community life, research on it requires a perspective relevant to all those aspects and not one that seeks to impose a formalistic Western version of community on China. In this thesis, the theory of social capital has been selected to combine community social networks, social trust, community participation, community autonomy and Chinese democracy in a coherent framework for analysing the present political conditions. It examines the Western concept of social capital and reveals how it is reconceptualised in theory and practice in China to include the Party-state rather than the inappropriate concept of a civil society divorced from the State, as theorised by Western social capital theorists. These aspects of community life, that are related to and influenced by each other, are used as an indicator of social capital but show that in China they have clear Chinese characteristics, which the participants are fully aware of. It is reflective social capital, one that build networks and trust but one where the role of the CCP is fully apparent. The concrete measures of Chinese urban community construction, which are undertaken mainly by Community Residents‘ Committees and engaged with those aspects and employed during community construction, are here analysed separately according to data collected through field work conducted in seven communities of Nanjing, China. Questionnaires about residents’ attitudes towards neighbourhood relationships, community participation, trust and other issues related to the project of community construction were distributed to community residents as an indicative form of evidence to support the broader theoretical findings. Interviews were conducted with heads of selected Community Residents’ Committees about the current conditions of their communities and their understanding of community construction. The conclusion of this research shows that the community construction project, whose aims were to reshape the State-society relation, strengthening social stability and government control, relieving the government burden and improving grassroots governance, however, provides only limited improvement in building community social networks, trust, community participation and community autonomy. The analysis suggests that this less than optimum outcome is due specifically to government policies and policy implementation that operates from a perspective that the Party-State and civil society are as one. Nevertheless, the process did open up a space for debates over community power, which was divorced from a Western version of democracy but was meaningful in the social, material and political context of China in this period of rapid modernization and urbanisation.
Advisor: McCarthy, Gregory Michael
Groot, Gerry
Spoehr, John Douglas
Cadman, Kate
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2014
Keywords: China; urban community; grassroots governance; social capital
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