Township leaders and village chiefs in contemporary China

Colloquium | February 28 | 2 p.m. | UC Berkeley Extension (Golden Bear Center), IEAS Conference Room, Suite 510

 Zhe Ren, Institute of Developing Economies, CJS Visiting Scholar

 Daniel Mattingly, Stanford University

 Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)

The relationship between a township leader and a village chief in contemporary China is something of a political puzzle. Researchers have maintained that China’s bureaucratic system contains a very important political contracting framework. Within this framework, the career of a cadre is strongly related to the performance of a contract that may cover not only economic development but also other aspects of political and social development. Accordingly, previous research argued that political contracting was applied to leadership positions at both the town and village levels, making comparable ‘contractual’ demands on township leaders and village chiefs. Certain characteristics of the two positions, however, differ significantly in their implications for leadership performance and accountability. For instance, a cadre’s career strongly depends on his or her performances and their assessments by upper-level and high-level cadres. In contrast, one can only become a village chief through a village election. Moreover, once elected a village chief cannot be dismissed by a township government unless the village chief is convicted of a crime. Furthermore, since a village chief is an elected leader, he or she does not necessarily have a clear and strong career plan akin to that of a cadre working and seeking to rise in the bureaucratic system. For these and other reasons, it is doubtful that the conventional political contracting model can adequately explain the complex relationships that exist today between township leaders and village chiefs in China.

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