Local Governance in China and India

Local Governance in China and India

Sino-Indian-U.S. Research Project Launched

There have been significant developments in local governance in China and India -- the world's two most populous countries -- during the past decade or more. In China, rural reforms have created conditions for rising prosperity, mainly in coastal provinces. The emergence of multiple forms of enterprise ownership and the accompanying diversification of the rural economy has given rise to a variety of new social forces.

In India, too, representative institutions have been constituted by mandatory elections. The new Village Councils (where one third of the seats have been reserved for women) have new powers both to carry out developmental functions and to manage local resources.

These developments have thrown up many signficant issues for empirical as well as theoretical analysis for social scientists, policy makers, and social workers as well.

Although there have been occasional efforts to undertake parallel description and analysis of socioeconomic and political institutions in China and India, as yet there has been no systematic attempt to undertake genuinely comparative studies of local rural development and governance.

To fill this conspicuous vacuum, the Center for Chinese Studies, in conjunction with the Peking University Institute of Sociology and Anthropology, and the Institute of Social Science (ISS), New Delhi, India, has launched a long-term research project on local governance. This represents the confluence of two ongoing academic enterprises. First, under the aegis of the ISS, a joint Sino-Indian seminar on "Economic Reforms in India and China" was held at Hyderabad in March 1999; a follow-on ISS-sponsored joint seminar on "Foreign Investment and Economic Development in India and China" was held in Calcutta just a few days ago. Both meetings were funded by an ISS Ford Foundation grant. The second immediate antecedent of the current project was an international workshop on "Mapping Local Governance in Post-Reform China," hosted by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies in June 2001.

The Mapping Local Governance workshop (which was co-sponsored by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Havard University) brought together a dozen leading scholars on the political economy of the local state in two days of intensive discussions with four goals in mind:

(1) To survey and sum up the "state of the art" in studies of the local state in post-Mao China;

(2) to fashion a common conceptual framework and analytical vocabulary for studying emergent local state forms and functions;

(3) to identify key struc­tural and environmental variables affecting the performance of the local state; and

(4) to propose a common agenda for future research on the political economy of the local state.

The next step in the project will be an international confererence on Local Governance and Rural Development and Social Change in China and India, to be held in New Delhi on January 3-5, 2003. There twenty-eight scholars from four Pacific Rim/Asian Countries, the United States, China (including Hong Kong), Australia, and India -- will present papers that focus on institutional change at the grassroots level, the political economy of decentralized governance, and the social dynamics of rural development. At the conclusion of the conference, a volume of conference papers will be edited by the three co-principal investigators -- Professors Richard Baum (Director of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies), Ma Rong (Peking University), and Manoranjan Mohanty (Delhi University).

Published: Friday, February 22, 2002