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Title: Changing governmentalities and power relations in Chinese government's 'community construction' practices
Author: Wan, Xiaoyuan
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2013
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China has been experiencing a profound and massive social transition from a rigid socialism to a more diverse and fragmented society since 1978. To strengthen the state control of the grassroots society in the increasingly fragmenting society, the central government launched a nationwide ‘community construction movement’ in the 1990s with the rationality of es¬¬tablishing a street-level administration system in order to better implement reformed urban policies. Urban community (she-qu) has been designated as a new government technology to implement state control. The Chinese central government’s 2006 ‘building a harmonious society’ strategy further demonstrated that ‘community’ is targeted as an important approach to develop a more ‘governing-at-a-distance’ administrative mechanism at neighbourhood level. The main objectives of this study are to explore Chinese street-level governments’ shifting governing technologies and to map the changing dynamic of power relations between the government and social actors in the grassroots Chinese society. Drawing on Foucault’s ‘governmentality’, this study looks at both the Chinese government’s changing governing discourses and daily practices and the citizens’ reactions to these technologies, or the process of ‘subjectification’. An in-depth case study of a Beijing city-centre neighbourhood is carried out and data is collected according to qualitative methods including document analysis, interview and participant observation. The findings indicate that the Chinese government is changing its governing mode to explore more soft and covert control on society. The ‘expertise’ of specialists, professional institutions and non-government organisations is in many occasions used by the government as a tool to legitimise its objectives and practices. The terms ‘public participation’ and ‘traditional morality’ are widely used in government discourses to cultivate politically active and disciplined citizens and facilitate social mobilisation. The findings also suggest that living in pervasive discourses of ‘harmony’, Chinese citizens demonstrated multifaceted and ambivalent subjectivities: while in language many citizens express apathy or aversion as resistance to the government discourses, in daily life most of them still choose to obey the conventional norms and rules to be morally integrated and politically safe persons. This study develops a new conceptual framework for understating the Chinese government’s shifting governing approaches in China’s social transition. It contributes to the knowledge of Chinese urban governance and the Chinese state-society relations by revealing the changing dynamics of power relations between the lowest level of Chinese government and the public in everyday neighbourhood lives. Meanwhile, it contributes to the theory of governmentality by opening discussions on government rationalities, technologies and the exercise of bio-power in non-western and non-liberal contexts. This study appeals to scholars who are interested in China’s changing statehood, the landscape of Chinese urban governance and the power interactions between the Chinese government and the public.
Supervisor: tait, malcolm ; wagenaar, hendrik Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available