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Township/Village Administration from the Late Qing to the Warlord Period

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In ancient China, formal government institutions stretched to the county level. This system witnessed a radical transformation during the late Qing and the Warlord period, with various types of township/village administrations mushrooming in many places across the country to meet the requirements of institutional reform and the demands for modernization in local regions. These township/village administrations can be divided into two types: one is the newborn township/village administration in the late Qing dynasty, and the other is the township/village or quasi-administration that evolved from the old localized Xiangdi (local administrative system). Functionally, the former can be further divided into two kinds, the monofunctional township/village administration, which might include education, or police and security, and the multifunctional administration. The latter falls into three categories: some were new-model administrations directly translated from the old rural Xiangdi system; some were subdivisions of the neonatal administration composed of the old local Xiangdi system; and still, others basically reserved the intrinsic property and function of the old Xiangdi system. As political entities, township/village administrations of this era can be further differentiated into those bordering on “self-government” and those lingering under “the official system.” Township/village administration at this time mostly consisted of a standing body, with their personnel, who enjoyed the status of professional civil servants, set up by legal proceedings. Government outlay was sponsored by public finance or tax income, and it assumed all kinds of modern administrative functions, basically of a modern character. Meanwhile, of course, it retained much of its traditional flavor in actual operation. All in all, the birth of this form of township/village administration constituted an important dimension of the modernization of China’s local administration system.


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