On local governance in China: From feudalism, centralized bureaucracy, to self-governance


Book Section

© 2015 by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. Prior to the introduction of Western political thoughts on local governance to China in the 19th century, for centuries Chinese intellectuals had also been engaging in extensive debates on the advantages and disadvantages of various forms of local governance. The debate was at first centering on whether feudalism is a better system than a centralized bureaucracy. Then, during the Song and Yuan Dynasties, scholars began to question whether either system was superior to the other. They argued that optimal institutional choice might depend on the particular circumstances. During the Ming Dynasty, Gu Yanwu proposed an alternative system named “embodying feudalism in centralized bureaucracy,” wherein county magistrates are selected and evaluated by the local constituents. To be reappointed, the incumbent magistrate must perform well. After each successful reappointment, the magistrate will be vested more power in personnel appointment and budgeting. After three successful terms, the incumbent magistrate will be granted tenure of his position. The system of “embodying feudalism in centralized bureaucracy” proposed by Gu Yanwu is in nature a form of local self-government, a path breaking institutional renovation in Chinese history…

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Niou, EMS

Published Date

  • January 1, 2014

Book Title

  • Confucian Culture and Democracy

Start / End Page

  • 225 - 246

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9789814596381

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1142/9789814596398_0010

Citation Source

  • Scopus