Policy innovation, asymmetric decentralization and local economic development in post-Mao China : case studies of China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and Kunshan Economic and Technological Development Zone
The Chinese government's economic reforms over the last couple of decades have led to rapid economic growth for the country. However, many empirical studies on the post-Mao China show that the economic transition towards market economy is in large part actually propelled by active local governments, which are encouraged to make policy innovations in order to promote better local economic development. This thesis aims to offer an understanding on how, why and under what circumstances the local governments of post-Mao China - while still controlled by a one-party communist regime- are able to make policy innovations to deal with business operating under market transition conditions. Theoretically, the phenomenon of local policy innovation can be analyzed with a framework involving three dimensions. First, local policy innovation can be seen to take place in order to respond to challenges presented by the changing macro development environments. Second, local policy innovation can be understood as a consequence of changing responsibilities and competencies between central and local governments. Third, local policy innovation may be related to the dynamics of local-central strategic interactions. Empirically, with the contextual approach as its chosen methodology, this theoretical framework is applied to two successful cases of innovation in Jiangsu province within the Yangtze Delta of post-Mao China: Kunshan Economic and Technological Development Zone (KETZ); and China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (CSSIP). The history of these two national development zones identifies the former as a case of a 'locally initiated project' while the latter represents an example of 'local implementation of a centrally initiated project'. In terms of types of local-central dynamic interaction, 'state- intention to tolerate', 'ex-post state endorsement', and 'ex-ante state adoption' were seen sequentially in the case of KETZ, while 'marginalizing the local', 'local obedience', and 'local flexibility' operated simultaneously in the case of CSSIP. The thesis concludes that in post-Mao China significant local policy innovations were able to take place when localities encountered structural changes, including China's reengaging with globalization, changing local-central relations, and serious territorial competition. Actions of local policy innovations were ignited by agents, across scales, whose self-interests were highly involved in local economic development in the context of asymmetric decentralization. More specifically, in the post-Mao China context of economic decentralization to the local combined with political centralization under the party, career-minded local officials utilized their decentralized 'economic resources' to strive for more development, which in turn became their 'political capital' with the upper-level government to get themselves promoted.