Multilayered Social Networks in Rural Grassroots Governance

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.1, 2017


Multilayered Social Networks in Rural Grassroots Governance



Xu Lin, Song Chengcheng and Wang Shizong


Existing research on rural grassroots governance has adopted a network perspective to explore the role of traditional social vehicles, including clans, folk beliefs and clan groups, in improving the governance of rural villages. However, most of this research has concentrated on analyzing the mechanisms by which “horizontal” network relationships lead to effective village governance. It has thus to some extent neglected the basic reality of the overlapping interconnections between the top-down administrative system and the informal structure of village governance. In fact, if one proceeds from the traits of the government’s own organizational network, the social structure of the village itself and the position of the elite to undertake an analysis focused on the modes of interaction within the village under the intermixture of (formal) system design and (informal) social relations, it can be seen that key traits of officialdom mean that differences in the composition of the network promoted by the government affects both the speed with which policies are popularized and the government’s mode of interaction with the village elite. Moreover, the differences between these modes of interaction will further influence the subsequent operation of self-organization based on social tradition (“filial piety” or “morality”). At the same time, structural elements, including the economic and social relations of the village itself, determine whether self-organization can improve the quality of governance in the long term. This finding can constitute a reflection upon and critique of the “strong government theory” and “tradition theory” trends now current in academia.