Participatory governance in China: Analysing state-society relations in participatory initiatives in Suzhou

Ying Chang, Mandy Lau, Pietro Calogero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Participatory governance has been increasingly promoted in China since 2006. Whilst the state appears to be supportive of nurturing self-governance at the community level through providing financial incentives, it is worth investigating whether the state hampers citizen autonomy in practice. This article examines the implementation of participatory initiatives in a middle-class neighbourhood within the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). Through interviews and observing the interactions between state actors, residents and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), this paper examines the impact of changing the facilitator of self-governance initiatives from academics to NGOs. The findings reveal complex relations: although the state does not interfere in participatory processes directly, statedefined evaluation criteria that privilege 'innovative' practices, and budget constraints of NGOs, have weakened the capacity of residents to practise self-governance. The findings add to the literature on participatory governance by highlighting the unique role of community leaders in shaping the quality of citizen involvement in participatory initiatives in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-352
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Development Planning Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • China
  • Community development
  • Community planning
  • NGO
  • Participatory governance
  • State-society relations

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