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A Supplement to Heilmann’s “Experimentation Under Hierarchy”: The Politics of Chinese Industrial Innovation in the Xi Era

Wen-hsuan Tsai and Ruihua Lin
p. 43-52

Abstract

Sebastian Heilmann has described the Chinese government’s policy innovation and diffusion process as “experimentation under hierarchy,” and this concept has undoubtedly had a major influence in academic circles. Heilmann argues that “model experiments” (pilot projects) and “proceeding from point to surface” (diffusion) are the two key elements of China’s reform model. This article proposes a third element, “nationwide coordinated work.” We find that the publication of a document on a particular reform policy by the central authorities gives local governments the green light to formulate relevant policies based on the centre’s direction. The localities will then give feedback based on their experience so that the centre can amend its regulations accordingly. Under the overall control of “nationwide coordinated work,” an experimental policy undergoes a circular process of implementation and adaptation designed to make policies more specific and practical.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 3 October 2020. Accepted on 16 September 2021.

Excerpt

Full text document will be published online on September 2023.

Outline

Introduction
The politics of innovation in China
Shuang chuang pilot projects and policy diffusion
Policy tailored to united front work: Fujian Province
One step ahead in market economics: Guangdong Province
The authoritarian state’s laboratory: Policy feedback and adaptation
Conclusion

First lines

Introduction

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policymaking and implementation processes are often opaque, as is the process of policy innovation and diffusion. Some scholars have analysed how policy innovations introduced by local governments are developed into nationwide reforms (Florini, Lai, and Tan 2012). Sebastian Heilmann has suggested the term “experimentation under hierarchy” to describe China’s policy innovation and implementation process. According to Heilmann, there are two important elements in this process: “model experiments” (dianxing shiyan 典型試驗), or pilot projects, and “proceeding from point to surface” (youdian zhimian 由點至面), or diffusion. Heilmann argues that, during the process, the central government always plays a leading and regulating role (2008a, 2008b, 2018). He explains how policies tried and tested through pilot projects are diffused nationwide.

Under Xi Jinping, the CCP has emphasised the concept of “top-level design” (dingceng sheji 頂層設計) (Schubert an...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Wen-hsuan Tsai and Ruihua Lin, A Supplement to Heilmann’s “Experimentation Under Hierarchy”: The Politics of Chinese Industrial Innovation in the Xi EraChina Perspectives, 2022/3 | 2022, 43-52.

Electronic reference

Wen-hsuan Tsai and Ruihua Lin, A Supplement to Heilmann’s “Experimentation Under Hierarchy”: The Politics of Chinese Industrial Innovation in the Xi EraChina Perspectives [Online], 2022/3 | 2022, Online since 01 September 2023, connection on 27 November 2022. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/14139; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/chinaperspectives.14139

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