A Political Economy of Rank: the territorial administrative hierarchy and leadership mobility in urban China

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Contemporary China, 2016, 25 (100), pp. 529 - 546
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© 2016 Taylor & Francis The level or rank of an administrative division (行区等级 or 政区级别) in China—a structural condition of the sub-national territorial administrative system—is a correlate of administrative rank (行政级别). State reterritorialization of the administrative divisions (行政区划), through establishment and expansion of hundreds of cities, introduces a political economy of differentiation and change by which city governments take the measure of their administrative reach and economic capacity. How do changes to the administrative divisions involve administrative rank, economic status and territorial governing power? In Suzhou, a prefecture-level city, incommensurability between the economic status of the city and its administrative rank reveals how ‘unfair’ rank in the administrative hierarchy becomes implicated in negotiations over territorial adjustments and cadre appointments, leading to creative forms of rank adjustment. Dynamics of the administrative divisions reflect rank consciousness, influence official positions and structure urban transformation in contemporary China.
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