The Everyday Lives of Policies and People
Edited by Norman Long, Jingzhong Ye and Yihuan Wang
Chapter 12: Stalemate of Participation: Participatory Village Development Planning for Poverty Alleviation in China
1 Li Xiaoyun and Liu Xiaoqian INTRODUCTION The populist notion and practice of participatory development was instigated in China by international organizations in the 1990s and aimed at facilitating change in China’s system of top-down planning. This has resulted in a complex situation. The spread of such a project-based participatory approach – applied to both overseas donor and government-funded interventions – led, in the 2000s, to its scaling up to influence national policy-making. Its achievements, however, present uneven evidence. On the one hand, it has levered open arenas once closed off to the voice of citizens or to public scrutiny, and draws upon alternative visions of democracy. Such moves have helped to widen the political space so that citizens can play more of a part in the making and the shaping of decisions that affect their lives (Brock et al. 2001; Webster and Engberg-Pederson 2002). The rich experience gained has become a ‘model’ for ‘mainstreaming’ at the macro level (Li Xiaoyun 1999), and as a means of further broadening the scope of policy-making through so-called ‘bilateral policy dialogue’. This has been ongoing with bilateral agreements, and some positive effects of the participation can be articulated. For example, official and political discourse has changed to being ‘people-centered’; public hearings concerning public goods delivery in urban management have become widely practiced; and likewise with ‘information transparency boards’ concerned with rural governance; and there is more evidence and recognition of ‘ordered democracy’ found in the official Communist Party document of the seventeenth Congress. On the...