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Revisiting Deliberative Governance: The Case of Land Transactions in Rural China

Rongxin Li and Renhao Yang
p. 51-61


Deliberative forms of governance are on the rise as modern governments seek to engage more diverse participants in decision-making, but most studies have focused on how well deliberative cases are being practised in democracies. A few studies have examined how deliberative governance has been developed and improved in the authoritarian state of China. Very few, however, examine how deliberative governance could possibly be accommodated and reconciled to address difficult issues such as land transactions. In this paper, we adopt an interdisciplinary sociopolitical method to disentangle diversity in deliberative governance in China, by examining land transactions in Sichuan, and we put forward two arguments. The first is how a hybrid type of deliberation that mixes both traditional and modern methods is evident in Chinese grassroots governance in managing land transactions; and the second is how this pragmatic deliberation manages land transaction conflicts in both a political and capital sense, thus demonstrating the great potential for deliberative governance in China’s local politics.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 30 June 2021. Accepted on 22 June 2022.


Full text document will be published online on June 2024.


Deliberative governance in democracies and authoritarian states revisited
Disentangling diversity in deliberative governance in rural Chinese villages: A RCCCL case
Status quo of RCCCL reform in rural Chinese villages
Stakeholders and deliberative settings
Main conflict moments and incentives for deliberation in conflict resolution
Patient struggle: Villagers’ mobilisation and participation
Compromised deliberation: Dismissing villagers’ complaints and petitions
The political-capital nexus and its representative: VC-CAMC

First lines


A normative shift on the study of deliberative democracy in authoritarianism (He 2006, 2014; He and Warren 2017; He and Wagenaar 2018) provides a solid theoretical backdrop for further exploration of deliberative governance in the Chinese context with the rather paradoxical coexistence of authoritarianism and deliberation. Also, Chinese official propaganda in the last two decades has facilitated the image of deliberative governance, especially in the grassroots of autonomous regions, without eroding the regime’s authoritarianism. Flourishing grassroots deliberative practices in the last two decades have motivated many authors and practitioners to further rethink this possible public empowerment method (or potential bottom-up quasi-democratic reform in China’s grassroots) in authoritarianism.

To many, the deliberative concept of democracy endorses a way in which the empowered public can actively participate in interactions between the public and government. However, this ...

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Bibliographical reference

Rongxin Li and Renhao Yang, “Revisiting Deliberative Governance: The Case of Land Transactions in Rural China”China Perspectives, 133 | -1, 51-61.

Electronic reference

Rongxin Li and Renhao Yang, “Revisiting Deliberative Governance: The Case of Land Transactions in Rural China”China Perspectives [Online], 133 | 2023, Online since 01 June 2024, connection on 02 October 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Rongxin Li

Rongxin Li is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Government, and research assistant at the Research Centre for Chinese Politics, Peking University. No. 5 Yiheyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 100871 (

Renhao Yang

Renhao Yang is a PhD candidate at the Division of Geography and Tourism, KU Leuven. Celestijnenlaan 200e, 3001 Leuven, Belgium (

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