Order in Transitional China and Its Institutional Logic

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 38, No. 2, 2017


Order in Transitional China and Its Institutional Logic



He Yanling and Wang Guanglong


The development of order in transitional China is not merely a matter of institutional supply, but also a matter of defining the state’s special roles and functions in the transition period. Since reform and opening up, China has sought to realize the twin governance aims of high speed development of the socialist economy and maintenance of stability, which require that the state simultaneously undertake the dual roles of modern government and national capital. The consequent adjustments to the governance structure are expressed in the state’s devolution of power to the market while reserving government pricing power; devolution of power to local governments while reserving power over central tasks; and affirming social rights while reserving the power to approve social organizations. At the institutional level, the externalities produced by this “quasi-decentralized governance structure” are marked by the shrinkage of arrangements for collective welfare, the absence of mechanisms for routine security in ordinary life, and the development of mechanisms that allow the government to profit from the market. This may result in the instrumentalization of government functions and the capitalization of public power, producing imbalances in the distribution of social rights, wealth and risk, or in other words, social instability.


Keywords: order in transitional China, incidents of unrest, governance structure