1st Edition

Public Administration in Hong Kong Dynamics of Reform and Executive-Led Public Policy

By Wei Li Copyright 2023
    128 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book investigates the case of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of People’s Republic of China, mapping the changing patterns of political-administrative relations affected by the sovereignty change and structural reforms. It identifies the conditions that account for the varied political-administrative relations resulting from these changes, and develops an analytical framework that integrates and adapts theories and models from Western contexts to explain varied political-administrative relations in Hong Kong policymaking.

    The book tests its hypotheses through a qualitative comparative analysis of 18 cases occurring during the period of 1997–2012. It also conducts a comparative case analysis, which identified alternative causal conditions that were missing in the original framework. The book concludes that civil servants no longer dominate policymaking in Hong Kong after the regime change and structural reforms. While senior civil servants have sustained influence over policymaking processes through codified rules and political appointment, some of them have adapted to the changes in political environment that require more proactive policy styles and more hierarchical loyalty to the Central People’s Government of China than before.

    The first-hand interview materials presented in the book provide insights about internal political-administrative dynamics rarely accessible from the public domain. These insights provide inside knowledge of the actors, structure and processes of local policymaking in a context of post-colonial transition, and will be of interest to public administration scholars.

    1. Explaining political-administrative relations in policymaking: an analytical framework 2. Regime change and Principal Official Accountability System 3. Reform impact: 2002-2005 4. Reform impact and Political Appointment System: 2005-2012 5. Causal paths to varied political-administrative relations in policymaking 6. Implications for political-administrative relations in policymaking: 2012-2022


    Wei Li is an Associate Professor at the College of Public Administration, Huazhong University of Science and Technology. She obtained BA in Chinese literature and MPhil in political economics from Fudan University, and PhD in comparative politics and public administration from the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include politics-administration dichotomy, expert-policy interaction, policy process theories and social innovation.

    "This book highlights the transition of Hong Kong from a government led by senior civil servants to another governed by a political executive body where ‘insiders’ and 'strangers' à la Heclo alternate. […] The writing style of the empirical sections is highly engaging. It offers a sequential account of governments and their imprint on the politico-administrative relations truffled with a rich selection of 18 case studies. These mini cases, guided by the theoretical approach and hypotheses laid out at the outset, are enriched by the intensive archival work and more than 100 interviews."

    Salvador Parrado, Professor, National University of Distance Learning, UNED, Madrid, Spain.

    "The confluence of the tides of politics and administration has long been a focus of academic endeavour. For too long, however, the scholarship on political-administrative relations has been dominated by those whose empirical concerns lie in the West. Wei Li’s Public Administration in Hong Kong – methodologically imaginative, theoretically expansive and empirically rich – is a much welcomed corrective. Drawing on a series of historical and contemporary policy cases, Li adapts classical public administration theories and models to explain the evolution of political-administrative relations in post-colonial Hong Kong. In so doing, she has produced a sophisticated, original analytical framework that will quickly become an essential item in the tool kit of those interested in what happens when canonical public administration theory is applied in non-Western, sub-national contexts."

    Richard Shaw, Professor, Massey University, New Zealand.

    "Based on 18 mini-policy-focused case studies and over 100 interviews with government and establishment insiders, Li Wei’s new book unpacks the relationship between political appointees and senior civil servants in the policy process of a local government of China. Using frameworks typically applied to Western democracies, Li demonstrates their utility in a non-Western context. Empirically rich and sensitive to the changing socio-economic and political context of Hong Kong the study focuses on a period of relative autonomy for the region (1997-2012) and assesses the impact of the regime and structural changes. Li shows that with these changes, senior civil servants, still influential, no longer dominate the policy process. The book is of interest to public administration scholars, practitioners, and students."

    John P. Burns, Honorary Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.