By Wang Shiyou
Published: 2008-01-23

Shi Yajun: Surveying the Chinese GovernmentFrom News, page 7
Translated by Rui Bingyou

How big are China's local governments? How much power do they actually wield? What tools do they use to implement policy? What relationships do they have with each other? What kind of financial stresses are they facing?

Charged with answering these and more questions, a group of scholars from the China University of Law and Politics has been moving forward with what is likely to be one of the largest surveys of Chinese government administration since 1949.

On January 19th, the Economic Observer interviewed Shi Yajun, party secretary for the China University of Law and Politics and director of the project, which is backed by the State Council and financed by the Social Science Fund.

The Economic Observer: Since reform and opening up, there have been five rounds of political reform. Despite continued calls for deeper reform of the bureaucracy, why hasn't there previously been an attempt like this before?

Shi Yajun: To fill this blank, that was precisely the reason why we started looking into the Social Science Fund. How the administrative management of China is structured, what the powers at the different levels of government are, the power relationships involved, the mechanisms for leveraging power... we've never once examined these questions at the national level.

Why hasn't it been done before? The degree of difficulty was too great. National, large-scale surveys require scientific standards, the mobilization of significant human, physical, and financial resources, and coordination with government at all levels. To lack any of these would mean failure. The project's backing of the Social Science Fund allowed us to overcome much of the difficulty presented by this task.

EO: What special considerations were made in choosing the points to be surveyed?

Shi: According to the tenets of social survey sampling, we picked the East, West, Central, and Northeast-- 14 city and provincial autonomous regions. We went to four layers of government-- provinces, cities, counties, and towns. We took special consideration in visiting both developed and developing areas, the disparities between which were quite big. We also kept in mind the size and roles of the Macau and Hong Kong governments. This time, there were 13 research teams, each with two to three professors  or doctoral students, and Masters candidates, in total, a hundred people.

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