Multiple Social Networks in Grassroots Governance in Rural China

Social Sciences in China, 2018

Vol. 39, No. 3, 2018


Multiple Social Networks in Grassroots Governance in Rural China



Xu Lin, Song Chengcheng and Wang Shizong


Existing research on grassroots rural governance in China adopts a network perspective to explore the role of traditional social vehicles including clans, clan clusters and popular beliefs in improving village governance. However, most of this research has concentrated on analyzing the way in which horizontal network relationships lead to effective village governance. It has thus to some extent neglected the basic reality of the overlapping interconnections between the “top-down” administrative system and the informal structure of village governance. In fact, an analysis that proceeds from the features of the government’s own organizational network, the social structure of the village itself and the position of its elites in order to focus on modes of interaction within the village under the intermixture of (formal) system design and (informal) social relations, shows that differences in the composition of the government’s promotional networks resulting from the traits of key officials affect the speed of policy dissemination as well as the government’s mode of interaction with the village elites. Moreover, differences in these modes of interaction further influence the subsequent operation of self-organization based on social traditions (“filial piety” or “morality”). At the same time, structural elements, including the economic and social relations of the village itself, determine whether self-organization will improve the quality of governance in the long term. This finding can serve as a reflection on and critique of the theories of “strong government” and “tradition” current in academia.


Keywords: multiple social networks, village elite, filial piety fund, policy dissemination