Local politics, local citizenship? Socialized governance in contemporary China

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The demise of collective units that attach citizens to the state in China has been overstated; the hegemonic form of Chinese citizenship today links participation and welfare entitlement to membership in a collective unit in a specific locality. This article presents an ethnographic account of the operation of this “normal” form of local citizenship in resident and villager committees in Tianjin. These committees combine participatory and welfare dimensions of citizenship in one institutional setting. Here, citizens are bound to the state through a face-to-face politics that acts both as a mechanism of control and a channel for claims-making, a mode of rule I term “socialized governance,” which blurs the boundaries between political compliance and social conformity, and makes social norms a strong force in the citizenship order. While variably achieved in practice, this form of citizenship represents an ideal that shapes conditions for politics and perceptions of inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-362
Number of pages21
JournalThe China Quarterly
Early online date8 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • local citizenship
  • resident and villager committeess
  • social welfare
  • partcipation
  • hukou system
  • elections
  • governance
  • everyday politics
  • guanxi


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