IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Quality of Governance in China: The Citizens' View


  • Saich, Tony

    (Harvard University)


Are China's citizens sufficiently satisfied to reduce potential challenges to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule? It is reasonable to assume that if a significant percentage of citizens are more satisfied with government performance and the provision of public goods, the government will have a greater capacity for policy experimentation and enjoy a residual trust that may help them survive policy errors. This paper asks three sets of questions. The first set asks about the general levels of satisfaction with government across different levels. Second, we ask about how citizens view the performance of local officials in dealing with the public and in implementing policy. Third, we look at the level of satisfaction with the provision of a number of specific goods and services, with a more in-depth look at dealing with corruption. In particular, we compare responses among those who live in major cities, small towns and townships, and villages. Findings are based on a survey that was conducted together with Horizon Market Research Company in the fall of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. The survey is a purposive stratified survey ranging from 3,800 to 4,150 respondents selected from three administrative levels: city, town, and village. Rather than a nationwide probability sample, the survey comprises a number of sites selected on the basis of three variables: geographic location, average per capita income, and population. Survey findings reveal that the new leadership that takes power through late-2012 and 2013 is likely to inherit a mixed situation. There is clearly much dissatisfaction with the performance of local government and its officials; very few have faith that the government can deal effectively with the problem of corruption. Yet, there is still good will towards the Central government that is not identified with the problems that are seen to blight the performance of those levels of government closer to the people. The surveys confirm the view of others that Chinese citizens do "disaggregate" the state and would appear to retain faith in the central government. In addition, the satisfaction with all levels of government has risen since we began the surveys in 2003. This may give the Central leadership some cushion if it makes policy errors in the future. However, as we have seen in the recent past, seemingly stable authoritarian regimes can unravel quickly, and citizen frustration can spill out onto the streets. Our survey also suggests that citizens feel that local officials are not very effective in promoting the interests of ordinary folk, but are quite adept at pursuing their own interests. It will be a notable challenge for the new leadership to bring about significant improvement in those areas of public service citizens deem most important without increasing transparency and accountability in local government.

Suggested Citation

  • Saich, Tony, 2012. "The Quality of Governance in China: The Citizens' View," Working Paper Series rwp12-051, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-051

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:92:y:1998:i:04:p:791-808_21 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Mastruzzi, Massimo, 2010. "The worldwide governance indicators : methodology and analytical issues," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5430, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-015-1223-z is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-051. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.