Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 6: Local governance: the roles of the People’s Congresses and the People’s Political Consultative Conferences
Any consideration of local governance naturally invites a clarification on the very concept of ‘governance’. Despite its general popularity, ‘“governance” is a vague and contested term, as are many political concepts’ (Bevir 2010: 1). Literally, the word ‘governance’ means ‘rule, control’, which is ‘the action or manner of governing a state, organization, etc’ (Oxford Dictionaries n.d.). The first contemporary appearance of the term occurred in the World Bank report Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth published in 1989, which signified governance as the responsibilities of the state (World Bank 1989). In its 1992 report Governance and Development, the World Bank further defined governance as ‘the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development’ (World Bank 1992c: 2). Invariably, the conventional understanding on governance emphasizes the roles that formal state institutions play in governing. Since the 1990s, a group of scholars started to argue that governance in a contemporary context involves new approaches and perspectives consequent to the 1980s neoliberal reforms of the public sector in the West featuring decentralization, marketization and privatization. Stoker argues that governance refers to the governing styles in which boundaries between and within the public and private sectors become blurred, and governing mechanisms do not rest on recourse to the authority and sanctions of government (Stoker 1998: 17).
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