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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Local Realities of the Targeted Poverty Alleviation Policy in China
4: Why Similar Counties Experience Different Poverty Outcomes: Bureaucratic integration, Policy Process and Poverty Reduction
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Why do local governments deliver divergent poverty reduction outcomes even they have similar anti-poverty policies? While many studies have attributed different outcomes to the regions’ natural endowments and economic growth, they cannot explain why counties similar in these aspects still experience such varied outcomes. This paper explores alternative factors that influence varying poverty reduction outcomes by examining the varied experience of two neighboring poverty-stricken counties in Jiangxi province. Both counties share similar geographic and economic conditions and implement similar policies in General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign. Yet, one county proved more effective than the other in raising rural household incomes and reducing the poverty rate between 2014 and 2019. This study finds that poverty governance firstly requires an integrated bureaucratic system to mitigate the conflicts between various bureaucratic agencies. The bureaucratic integration is achieved by installing three key attributes, namely the leading small group, lead department and integrated resources. Second, an integrated bureaucracy allows policy actors to mobilize and steer bureaucratic and societal actors to take collective actions. Specifically, under an integrative bureaucracy, policy actors are capable of setting clear and coherent policy goals, fostering engaged multi-actor collaboration and enforcing pro-poor benefit distribution to achieve poverty reduction outcomes. A fragmented system, by contrast, tends to result in ambiguous and disjointed goal, limited plural participation and benefit distribution mechanisms that favor the better-off. This study augments our understanding of how local governments, particularly the counties implement central strategies. Its findings underscore how local state’s bureaucratic structure and its relations to society come together to shape different poverty outcomes.