Chapter 4: The institutionalization of neighbourhood governance: dilemma and political hurdles
Yong Gui and Weihong Ma
As is well known, the danwei (work unit) used to be the basic and significant unit of social management in urban China. Not only was it the main channel for distributing resources; it was also the tool for state control over society (Walder, 1986; Whyte and Parish, 1984). Cities at that time resembled collections of independent workplace-based neighbourhoods, rather than integrated urban entities (Bray, 2005, pp. 4-5). However, market reform and increasing competition since the 1980s have forced the closure of inefficient danweis and weakened their capacity as comprehensive welfare providers. The housing reform in 1998, which required danweis to sell off their housing stock to employees at discount prices and greatly advanced the 'socialization and marketization' of welfare provision, has put an end to danweis as resource provision units. This made a fundamental change to the urban social structure (Zhao and Bourassa, 2003; Wang and Murie, 1999). Housing privatization created new residential neighbourhoods in urban China and, along with such developments, new neighbourhood organizations, such as homeowners' associations (yezhu weiyuanhui) and property management companies, have been created. These new organizations are basically economic institutions set up, respectively, for the protection of homeowners' property interests and for business organizations that serve to maintain these interests.
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