Governance Transition and Government Reform in Globalization: 30th Anniversary of Chinese Reform and Opening-up

30 Jahre chinesische Reform- und Öffnungspolitik. Im Rahmen der Konferenz soll auf eben diese letzten drei Jahrzehnte zurückgeblickt werden. Ferner soll die aktuelle politische Lage analysiert und ein Blick in die Zukunft geworfen werden.


Conference Summary: International Conference on Governance Transition and Government Reform in Globalization

In the 30th anniversary of Chinese reform and opening-up, the School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Konrad-Adenauer Foundation successfully held the international conference, titled as “Governance Transition and Government Reform in Globalization” with the support from German Konrad Adenauer Foundation. More than fifty leading experts on China’s political and social reform worldwide came to speak in the panels and over 100 university professors, policy makers, government officials, students and representatives of civil society participated in the discussions. Looking explicitly toward the future governance of China, the conference left us with many valuable suggestions and comments on China’s democracy process, as well as the challenges and problems in this era of transition.

Professor Hu Wei, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs addressed the welcome note. He gave a brief account of the nation’s leading institute Shanghai Jiaotong University and sincere thanks for the constant support to his school. He noted that we reached a critical moment for China’s development and it is necessary, also important to have experts from all over the world getting together to discuss this transition. His passionate speech was followed by the opening address from Thomas Awe, director of Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Shanghai. He congratulated China on its amazing economic and social wind of change since Deng Xiaoping’s reform and spoke highly of China’s role in promoting integration and development in the world. As a German in Shanghai, he also found out many challenges and problems facing China today and the world democracy process, for example, corruption, disparity of the standard living and disconnect people. However, as he claimed, there are more opportunities for us to work together in the light of democracy and further economic, political and social development. In addition, he introduced briefly about Konrad-Adenauer Foundation’s history, mission and impact.

The conference mainly covered four topics: Reform and Political development; Government reform and Governance transition; Democratization and Political development and Local democracy and Governance transition. Although time was limited, guest speakers highlighted their research achievements. Dr Kiichiro Yagi, a professor from Kyoto University, made the comparison of economic reform between China and Eastern Europe. He claimed that the success of Chinese reform could be better understood if adopting Deng Xiaoping’s unique explanation of socialism. Coming all the way from Norway, Professor Hjellum cast doubts on the accuracy of some information in China expert David Shambaugh’s new book “China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation”. He argued that the reform process in China would further enhance China Communist Party’s power and he also suggested that researchers should investigate thoroughly the realities of party-building through participant observation instead of generating empirical ideas. Professor Lin Gang affirmed the role of state and society in China’s political reform. He identified three typologies of democratic transition which are initiation by the leading elite on the top, village election and influence from media and nongovernmental organizations, together with two-vote systems. Nowadays, environmental problems raise a lot of social concerns. Professor Dan Guttman from Johns Hopkins but currently teaching in Beijing and Shanghai, gave a thorough exposure of difference in America and China environmental governance system. Professor Jing Yi Jia put forward a very interesting discussion on Sino-US comparison on Collaborative Service Delivery. He argued that China and the US were driven to CSD by some similar ideological, political and pragmatic forces. Successful CSD requires good contract management, market/civil empowering social balancing, and legitimization. Governments must be able to reconcile or compromise the potential conflicts among these capacities. Democracy is always the central point. Professor Shi Tian Jian from Duke University initiated a question on whether Chinese people want democracy. From his research, he found out that most of the people think the current democracy level in China is pretty high, but he left an open question on if Chinese residents really understand democracy. Experts also discussed issues in terms of State and Mass Media in China, Democratization in Asia, Traps, Gaps and Law in Reform-Era China, Union Power in China, Institutional Learning and adapting in China. We also learnt from Japan’s successful model of Watershed Governance in Making River Plan spoke by Professor Junichi Nagamine.

Notably, in order to promote more firm local understandings for all the participants, as well as create an excellent atmosphere for the discussions on the final topic “Local Democracy and Governance Transition”, one half day of the conference was dedicated to a visit in Yin Hang Community, which is an honored community in Shanghai YangPu District. All the foreign guests were truly amazed after observing the services offered in Sunshine Club where all the disabled residents were carefully guided to complete some social tasks and helped to fulfill their interests, together with the Senior Club where old people would truly find their lives ever colorful. In addition, through conversations with the chief of residents committee, some scholars have gained a good knowledge of local election process which can contribute to their research. Coincidently, Professor Peng Bo from our school, and Professor Joseph Fewsmith from Boston University showed their strong interests in exploring corporatism and how it influences the local government. Professor Peng stressed the difficulty and limit on the institutionalizing efforts of Party-state to establish corporatism between nongovernmental sector and itself while Professor Fewsmith argued that the Quasi-Institutionalization of the social corporations actually benefits the local government. Besides, Han Fuguo, a researcher on Local Government Reform process in China put forward a concept of “local government innovation sustainability” to study the determinants of Chinese Local Government Innovation. He discussed nine factors including political democracy and legitimacy. Professor Dai Changzheng, on the other hand, focuses on the study of public participation and governance transition in today’s China. As this conference was held in the city regarded as the oriental pearl, Liu Chunrong gave us a unique approach on Shanghai’s local governance under relatively great western influences.

The organization committee of this conference also arranged joyful activities, like Shanghai Forest Park Walk for all the participants to enjoy nature inside the urban area. Although this conference ended, but just like what Winston Churchill said, this is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. We are happy to see so many young and talented students throughout the conference, and we believe that it is the beginning of China’s prosperity and the world’s peaceful integration.

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Jiaotong University, Shanghai


Thomas Awe