China's Civil Service Reform

By Wang Xiaoqi

© 2012 – Routledge

192 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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About the Book

A market economy and a more liberal society have brought great challenges to China’s outdated governance structure and personnel management. To improve decision-making in government and reshape the management system in face of a more complex economy, post-Mao authorities have implemented a number of administrative reforms, including civil service reform which emphasized on selecting and promoting public officials based on their capability and work performance. Thousands of positions have been filled since the civil service system was implemented nationwide in 1993. The Chinese civil service reform is of far-reaching significance because it had the potential to be a departure from the established structure of cadre personnel management system developed in the 1950s. However, after several years of policy development, scholars observe that the new reforms have done little to undermine the old cadre system. Is this true? Or does this conclusion over-simplify the complicated implementation of the reforms?

This book examines the implementation and performance of the on-going civil service reforms in China. Using the principal-agent framework, the author draw upon key case studies showing how the reforms affect civil servants’ incentives and behavior in the local context and the Chinese leadership’s control over the bureaucracy. China’s reform experience speaks directly to many Asian countries facing urgent need to improve state capacity as the global financial crisis unfolds.


"This is an exceptional book which provides an in-depth analysis of China’s civil service reform in recent decades. Drawing on first-hand data sources, the book points out that civil service reform, vital to economic and human development in China, has achieved some desired goals such as improved transparency, accountability, and participation, though the improvements are confined within the bureaucracy… Knowledge of the complexities of civil service reform will enhance our understanding of the dynamics and dilemma of China’s economic and political reforms. Timely and in great depth, China’s Civil Service Reform is a ground-breaking scholarly work on civil service governance in China. It is essential reading for students and scholars who are interested in civil service and political reforms in China." - Alfred M. Wu, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China; China Information 2013.

"This volume is a highly valuable addition to the study of bureaucracy and civil service in general, and a good example of quality fieldwork in the tricky environment of the Chinese political system. It is a well-crafted piece of scholarship that anyone interested in the Chinese political system at large should read, and anyone working with the bureaucracy specifically must read." - Nis Grünberg, The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Civil Service Scope, Structure and Context for Reforms 3. Civil Service Reform Policy and Implementation 4. Local Implementation of Civil Service Reforms 5. Control of the Bureaucracy and Reform Outcomes 6. Implications for Asian Developing Countries 7. Conclusion

About the Author

Wang Xiaoqi is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include Chinese politics, public governance and management, coordination and collaboration, comparative public policy, and state-society relations. Her article appeared in The China Quarterly and International Social Science Journal.

About the Series

Comparative Development and Policy in Asia

The primary aim of this series is to publish original, high quality, research level work, by both new and established scholars in the West and East, on all aspects of development and policy in Asia. 

The scope of the series is broad, and aims to cover both comparative and single country studies, including work from a range of disciplines.  With particular reference to how Asian states have coped with the growing challenges of globalising economies and the ways in which national governments in Asia have changed their public policy strategies and governance models in order to sustain further economic growth, the series will bring together development studies, and public policy and governance analysis, and will cover subjects such as: economic development; governance models; the factors underpinning the immense economic achievements of different countries; the social, political, cultural, and environmental implications of economic restructuring; public policy reforms; technological and educational innovation; international co-operation; and the fate and political impact of people who have been excluded from the growth.  The series will include both empirical material and comparative analysis; and both single authored books and edited collections.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Social Services & Welfare
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies