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14 Centralized Minimalism: Semiformal Governance by Quasi-Officials and Dispute Resolution in China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter briefly summarizes the accumulated evidence, and moves on to some general observations about the implications of those findings for understanding of Chinese governance, past and present. It points up not just how formal government was organized but also how semiformal governance was practiced in the gray zone between the formal state and informal society. Greater community solidarity paradoxically enabled quasi-officials to reach more deeply into subcounty administration in Baodi county. Centralized minimalism can be relevant only if it can play a role in the current transition from a controlling-extractive state to a public service state. While new-age imperatives for a welfare state may render much of the old minimalism irrelevant, its tradition of semiformal governance and of state initiative plus local participation may yet have a role to play in China's ongoing search for its own distinctive political modernity.

Keywords: Baodi county; centralized minimalism; China; formal government; quasi-officials; semiformal governance



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