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Political decentralization and the path-dependent characteristics of the state authoritarianism: an integrated conceptual framework to understand China’s territorial fragmentation

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China’s city regionalization aims to remedy the negative effects of territorial fragmentation in search of coordinated development across various jurisdictions. Scant research systemically examines fragmentation in China with particular reference to its mechanisms and solutions. This article formulates a conceptual framework capable of dissecting China’s territorial fragmentation based on three institutional designs, namely—the central-dominated administrative system, the pro-growth cadre evaluation system, and the twofold tax-sharing system. Under this framework, this article deciphers territorial fragmentation in China from the perspectives of the centrally initiated political selection, cadre reward, and socioeconomic regulatory mechanisms. These three aspects help coordinate pro-growth-induced political decentralization which, at the same time, reveals the path dependence of Maoist state authoritarianism to solid regulatory powers of the central state. The framework allows us to pinpoint clearly three administrative solutions to mitigate the negative effects of fragmentation for future institutional design: the adjustment of jurisdictional boundaries, setting-up of interjurisdictional partnerships and regional institutions, and formulation of a regional spatial plan.

Keywords: Administrative solution; China; Territorial fragmentation; path dependence; political decentralization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Resource Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China 2: Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China 3: Department of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China 4: School of Economics and Management, Zhejiang A&F University, Hangzhou, China

Publication date: September 3, 2019

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