Development and Urbanization
Co-Authors: Hok Bun Ku - Associate Professor, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
In governing grassroots society, the Chinese state has engaged in extensive institution building to create apparatuses of self-government. In the countryside, the introduction of the Organic Law saw the institutionalization of villagers’ committees as autonomous mass organizations. In urban areas, residents’ committees were established as state-corporatist structures to facilitate the effective governance of urban populations. While these organs continue to play a salient role in local governance, the recent years have also seen the growing involvement of local organizations, such as social work organizations and community service providers, in neighbourhood affairs. Paralleling this development is the launch of party-building (dangjian) initiatives that have directly influenced the operation of local organizations. This paper argues that their cooptation by the Party-state in community governance signals the extending reach of the party apparatus into grassroots society. The recruitment of these organizations to assist in party-building work has poignant implications for their autonomy and the professional practice of social workers on the ground.This paper draws on field data collected from an urban village in Kunming. Urban villages accommodate large populations of migrant workers and are often deemed spaces of informality. In W community, social work organizations have emerged to provide services for a range of users including ethnic minorities, informal workers and migrants. The proliferation of these neighbourhood organizations has been accompanied by their increased enrollment in party-building efforts. Based on interviews with practitioners, this paper looks into the strategies of cooptation and sheds light on the mechanisms of party-building at the grassroots.