>

Local Elites and Historical Change in Grass-roots Social Governance Mechanisms in the Late Qing

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.6, 2019

 

Local Elites and Historical Change in Grass-roots Social Governance Mechanisms in the Late Qing

(Abstract)

 

Wang Xianming

 

The Daoguang and Xianfeng reigns saw the emergence of a local governance system based on local elites in Chinese society. This historical trend to some extent undermined the convention that “officials cannot hold positions in their native place.” A local social governance model was developed in which the local gentry acted on their own under official supervision, weakening the traditional system of officials and local clerks and runners. Although regulations for this “invisible system” varied at the local level, the trend toward management of local affairs by local gentry was generally consistent. More importantly, the remit of local gentry in dealing with local affairs was very broad, going far beyond the scope of the old system of officials and their subordinates. With the implementation of new policies in the late Qing, local elites had greater authority over local affairs than the “old administration;” their construction of local autonomy initiated the modern transformation of local governance.