China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
As economic growth, urbanization, and social change have strained the existing geographic configurations and organizational capacities of subnational units in China, the party-state has adjusted various territorial-administrative architectures. From restructured authority relations among different government tiers to bureaucratic reorganization of major metropolises, China’s policymakers have embraced a number of significant changes to urban and regional governance practices. Such changes continue to proliferate under the leadership of Xi Jinping, who has proven willing to shake up existing central-local dynamics. Although existing scholarship has explored some of these altered territorial-administrative practices, many questions remain about the causes and consequences of recent changes and about how such changes have varied across different parts of China. This panel assembles a set of papers that probe both empirical and theoretical aspects of China’s governance restructuring to shed light on the political drivers and distributive consequences of recent developments. Warren Lu explores how efforts to recentralize fiscal and personnel controls to the provincial level have engendered frictions between provinces and prefectural-level cities. Xiao Ma analyzes the political economy of high-speed rail to highlight the institutional arrangements that enable central and provincial bureaucracies to make credible commitments to localities. Kyle Jaros examines the political logic and distributional consequences of adjustments to urban district boundaries in China’s major cities. Carolyn Cartier reformulates dynamic approaches to China’s administrative divisions in order to conceptualize the political geographies of urban and regional transformation. Yue Zhang joins the panel as discussant.