The Politics of Law and Stability in China

The Politics of Law and Stability in China

Edited by Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Flora Sapio and Sarah Biddulph

The Politics of Law and Stability in China examines the nexus between social stability and the law in contemporary China. It explores the impact of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rationales for social stability on legal reforms, criminal justice operations and handling of disputes and social unrest inside and outside China’s justice agencies.

Chapter 12: The invisible hand of government: the conceptual origins of social management innovation

Flora Sapio

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, asian politics and policy, law - academic, asian law, human rights, politics and public policy, asian politics


In an obscure passage of Anti-Dühring, Friedrich Engels referred to the abolition of the state as the ‘future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production’ (Engels 1970: 292). More than 100 years after Anti-Dühring was written, in the 21st century across the globe the state has been hollowed out of many of its functions. Public services have been privatized, outsourced and contracted out in the belief they are best provided by markets. Bureaucrats have been turned into managers, who administrate and direct the creation of value. Citizens have been equalled to shareholders in the management of public affairs (Horner and Hazel 2005). New Public Management (NPM) and Public Value Theory, nowadays taught at Chinese universities, have been made the new orthodoxy of public administration in China. Together with stability maintenance, they have been morphed into the policy of social management innovation (shehui guanli chuangxin) (Pieke 2012). This so-called innovation rejuvenates the old science of sotsialnoe upravlenie, a discipline born in the Soviet Union that applied the laws of socialism to the lives of individuals. In contemporary China, the laws that the Party state claims will best ensure human development and therefore must be applied to the lives of citizens are now those of supply and demand through the market. Where once communities shared responsibility for the welfare of their members, now private provision of welfare is seen as a matter of personal success or failure.

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