Exploring the Sustainability of E-government Innovation in China: a Comparative Case Study on 22 Prefectural-level Cities’ Websites

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Abstract

Chinese central government has embraced the internet as a new channel for public service provision and has encouraged local authorities to innovate in this field. However, when the progress over the last decade is considered — as seen through the scores in annual benchmarking of local government websites — innovation appears very hard to sustain. Most localities experience a decline at some point in time. It is a conundrum why and how some cities can continuously enhance their online presence, while the majority experiences decreasing scores at some point. The purpose of this paper is to identify the factors that influence the sustainability of e-government innovation by Chinese local governments. In this paper, we apply an exploratory case study design. We analyse both qualitative data and quantitative indicators of 22 prefectural-level cities to identify drivers and constraints on sustainable innovation. Among the key findings are that user focus, long-term planning, and an organizational culture based on political control promote sustainability.Provincial-level governments, in contrast, appear to have little impact on the continued performance of the municipalgovernment websites. These findings are summarized in the conclusion along with suggestions for further research.

Keywords

Policy innovation Local-government websites E-government China Comparative case study 

Introduction

In the recent decade, the internet infrastructure in China and the IT literacy of its citizens have received a major boost. Whereas only roughly 10% of the Chinese population were internet users in 2006, in 2016 more than half of the population – 710 million individuals – made active use of the internet [1]. The internet has enabled new ways of communication, not only for business and private purposes but also between government authorities and citizens. The Chinese central leadership has recognized the potential of e-government, the use of information and communication technology in the public administration, to improve the effectiveness of public service provision. In 1999, to unleash the potential of the internet, the Chinese government launched the Government Online Project (zhengfu shangwang gongcheng) aiming to establish websites for all government agencies, including local governments [2, 3]. The websites are innovations, because they represent a fundamentally new practice in the local governments who did not previously have an online channel of communication. Although the establishment of websites was mandated by the central government, it was largely voluntary for the local governments to choose how to design and implement solutions. Local governments were thus left with room for innovation as they adapted content and functions to suit local conditions. With the frequent inventions in online technologies, local governments faced a pressure to keep pace with private companies that provided increasingly sophisticated online services. Users got accustomed to intuitive interfaces, fast response times, and traceability in case processing. Local governments envisioned e-government websites providing the same level of service as e-commerce platforms, even in the fast-changing online environment. For that reason, innovation in the form of adoption of new website functionalities was needed. However, just as importantly in the dynamic online environment, local governments had to continuously adapt and improve the websites to guarantee their sustainability.

Disappointingly to central government, many local government organizations chose the easy solution by creating websites that were all but empty shells. In effect, as assessments of the e-government drive started to tick in, it became clear that an upgrade of the websites was needed. One of these was the Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment, the officially recognized evaluation of government websites in China which had been inaugurated in 2002. In response, in 2003 the central government launched a second wave of e-government initiatives, which is when we begin our analysis in this study. This study is based on the data published by the website assessment reports.

In this paper, we focus on the adaptation of the operation and functionalities of websites of local government authorities across the country. Benchmarking the advances has been one of the major instruments for central government to incentivize compliance and commitment on behalf of local governments [4]. However, when the progress over the last decade is considered – as seen through the scores in the yearly Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Reports – most localities experience a decline in their score at some point in time. We contend that such decline indicates that innovation in the use of e-government solutions is hard to sustain. It is a conundrum why and how some cities can continuously innovate to enhance their online presence, while the majority is unable to satisfy the requirements of the benchmarking schemes, and therefore experience decreasing scores. To solve this puzzle, our research answers the following research question: What are the factors that influence the sustainability of e-government innovations in China’s prefectural-level cities?

We define an e-government innovation as creating or adopting new e-government solutions to address perceived governance problems [5]. The innovation literature emphasizes the creative process leading to the adoption of an innovation, including, how to make different groups of people start doing things in a new way as covered by literature on the adoption of policy innovation and on policy diffusion. This, however, easily leads to taking for granted that an innovation once adopted sustains high levels of effectiveness – even though both the problem as well as the context might change [6]. In our paper, we move the focus from the front of the process to the back end, to focus on how innovations are sustained over time. We define sustainability as the degree to which an innovation remains effective over time after its initial adoption. The relevance of routinization or institutionalization of innovation has been established in earlier work [7], including encouragement to identify the drivers and barriers to sustaining technologically mediated innovations [8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. Thus, we believe that an approach that examines the long-term effectiveness of government policy, e-government websites in this study, contributes to building knowledge about key factors for sustaining innovation in China.

The case of local e-government websites is important because it illustrates a more general problem of innovations, namely sustainability. An advantage of studying local government websites is the large population – all Chinese cities have one (by central government decree). This enables us to explore innovation across a large population of cases as opposed to other innovations that may be constrained to a few trial-sites. Furthermore, trials are rarely (if ever) allowed to perform badly, and they are often selected exactly because they are likely to succeed. Instead, e-government websites were adopted by all cities, and we thus have much larger variation on the outcome side. There are both successes and failures in terms of sustaining the innovation, which makes this case particularly important to examine. Apart from illustrating sustainability, an additional reason for examining e-government websites is pragmatic: data availability. From the website survey (documented in the Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Report mentioned above), we have data spanning a decade, with methods of the surveys well documented (see also Appendix 1). In sum, this data enables us to explore innovation from a long-term perspective to probe the overlooked phenomenon of the sustainability of innovations.

We find several factors to complement those known from existing research. For instance, in line with arguments in New Public Management, we find that when local governments emphasize the user group it potentially generates sustainability. Our findings suggest that the engagement of local governments in long-term planning also supports sustainability, Additionally, it appears that an organizational culture shaped by political control and communist rhetoric can substitute institutionalized planning in achieving sustainability.

The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. In search for potentially relevant factors influencing the sustainability of e-government innovations, we review the literature on public sector innovations in Chinese local government in a first step. In a second step, we discuss frameworks built to analyse the sustainability of e-government innovations. Then we present the research design and case selection. Subsequently, we explore if and how the identified factors influence the sustainability of e-government innovations in China. Finally, the conclusion summarizes the answer to the exploratory research question and the implications of the findings for future studies on local government innovation.

Public-sector Innovation in China

Even though the innovative capacity of public organisations has been questioned, the public sector has witnessed waves of reform based on technological and managerial innovations. Public-sector innovation transformed from a purely academic study in the 1970s, into a broad research agenda by the mid-1990s [14]. However, public sector innovation lacks a clear conceptualization [15]. Most definitions relate to the novelty of a solution, followed by its effectiveness [16], but the spectrum remains quite broad.

Novelty can relate to the ability to create a new idea for the first time and turn it into value for society, or simply to the process of identifying, translating, and adjusting ideas and solutions from other countries, policy fields or organizations. In the latter case, it is the context that determines the novelty [17]. Even if a public authority is not the inventor of the solution, its application can still mark a transformative discontinuity with existing practices – and herewith qualify with one of the key characteristics Osborne and Brown [18] had defined in their earlier work. Furthermore, Teets’ [19] studies on the diffusion of policy solutions in the field of elderly care in China, find that the context matters more than the originality of an innovation. These findings underline that not the invention itself, but rather its adoption in a new context matters in the Chinese case, a position we agree with.

The effectiveness of a solution, “the degree to which an intervention program fulfils its objectives” [7], is the second characteristic of innovation. Rogers’ [7] different dimensions of innovation are still the most widely cited in works that approach innovation from the perspective of gains in effectiveness and efficiency: relative advantage can be defined as the degree to which an innovation is considered better than alternative solutions; an economic advantage means an innovation is more cost-effective than the one it supersedes; a political advantage is when an innovation is more worthwhile for adopters seeking political benefits or rewards. However, another advantage – compatibility – escapes the logic of pure efficiency. It is defined as the degree to which an innovation is consistent with the existing values, the past experiences, and the needs of potential adopters. In China studies, public sector innovations are often paraphrased as “improvements” [20], implying that newly adopted solutions are more effective or efficient than previous ones.

Various factors lead to the adoption of public-sector innovations, and some of these may also influence the effectiveness of innovations over time. The list of potential drivers for public sector innovations is long. Among the factors that pressure government units are budget cuts and the so-called “productivity imperative” - rising expectations on behalf of the populace of the quality of government services [8]. Also, the need to match the expectations of New Public Management paradigms or government ideologies are identified as important innovation drivers [8].

The scholarship on innovation in China pays attention to the improvement of government services, but also to the adaptive capacity and responsiveness of the Chinese political system [5, 21]. Heberer and Göbel [22] even speak of an “innovation imperative” in Chinese government: to sustain regime legitimacy, the Chinese leadership needs to render local governments more responsive to people’s needs.

Furthermore, the China-specific literature combines theoretical insights from the literature on policy experimentation and policy diffusion, applying both domestic and transnational dimensions. One strand of research focuses on case studies exemplifying local practices of policy experimentations resulting in policy innovations and potentially nationwide roll-out [21, 23]. Another strand identifies and tests factors behind policy innovation and diffusion, with special emphasis on promotion incentives [24, 25, 26]. In the e-government domain, Ma [27] has applied a theoretical framework with quantitative indicators to explain what drives e-government development, and finds that inter-governmental competition, inter-governmental learning, pressure from higher levels of government, government finance, and governance capacity, are all significant factors. Public pressure, however, does not have any significant effect on the development of e-government.

Lastly, an increasing number of studies follows distinctive procedural models. A specific pattern is that higher level governments adopt and disseminate spontaneous local initiatives, dubbed “experimentation under hierarchy” [21, 24, 28, 29]. Agency and incentives remain two of the most hotly debated issues. Despite the largely unified incentive system for local governments, their innovation activities vary substantially [5]. Small-N case studies [19, 30] highlight the influence of individual policy entrepreneurs on the policy process. Most of the studies explain the phenomenon of adoption or implementation of a certain policy, but there is a research gap in terms of the sustainability of the innovations after the initial adoption.

Sustainability of Public-sector Innovation

In the international academic debate the influence of public sector innovations on the sustainability of the improvements in governance is gaining attention [6, 31, 32, 33, 34]. In the Chinese context, where innovation is an important criterion for promotion within the civil service, the risk for short-lived and trivial innovations [5] is larger than in other political-administrative systems. However, even though scholars highlight the sustainability of public sector innovations as an important subject for future studies on public sector innovation in China [35], and consider sustainability to be a constituting part of the concept of public sector innovation [23], there is no strong strand of research about this in China.

In the international comparative literature on public sector innovations, sustainability has been defined as “the degree to which an innovation continues to be used after the initial efforts to secure adoption is completed” [7]. Kim and Lee [33] stress the important linkage between “repeated and sustainable innovation” and policy effectiveness. Ingraham and Donahue [36] claim a strong influence of management capacity on the sustainability of innovations. Using the example of South Korea, Kim and Lee show how the managerial capacity of government units influences the sustainability of government programs that depart from traditional routines or patterned practices, including leadership, a qualified workforce, and appropriate structures. Capacity building, long-term planning, and political commitment emerge as important features for sustainability [33, 36]. We use the main elements of the definition offered by Kim and Lee, to which we add that it is not enough that an innovation is used, it must be effective over time. We thus arrive at the definition of sustainability presented in the introduction, as the degree to which an innovation remains effective over time after its initial adoption.

A Framework to Analyse the Sustainability of E-government Innovations

This study combines insights from the literature on e-government to construct a theoretical framework to analyse the sustainability of innovations. For example, Dunleavy, Margetts, Bastow, and Tinkler [37] present a broad framework for the analysis of the long-term performance of information technology in government, that can be used to study the effects of New Public Management on the sustainability of innovations. The overall conclusion is that New Public Management leads to problems over time. Specifically, their study finds that New Public Management leads to increased fragmentation in the administration through “agencyfication” (splitting up bureaucracies in smaller functional units) and outsourcing. Consequently, adhering to New Public Management might lead to less sustainability of innovation, because the downsizing of agencies would decrease the in-house information technology capacity. When the government outsources its IT operations, in effect, it relies on third parties (private suppliers) to construct and maintain critical technological infrastructure. Such reliance means that additional inter-organizational problems are likely to ensue as a weak central coordination of information-technology strategy leads to administrative and technological silos in government. Performance management is also found to be an impediment to sustainability. A need for performance measurement and financial incentives arises when the organization can no longer rely on a public-sector ethos to motivate employees. An organization which is run by performance measures is less likely to have a long-term focus, and the sustainability of innovation would hence be likely to suffer.

Such mechanisms could affect the sustainability of innovations, but whether this is the case for China remains unclear. It is well established that context matters for the implementation of New Public Management reforms [37, 38]. All countries to some extent have their own way of doing things as socialized by institutional legacies and organizational culture [38]. However, the general trends of New Public Management reforms are clearly apparent also in China [39, 40]. Wang and Guo [41] find that the discourse of New Public Management, with concepts such as marketization and outsourcing, has already become the everyday language of civil servants in China, which gives us no reason to believe that the pathologies of New Public Management, as described by Dunleavy et al., would be different in China. Hence, we will focus on assessing the impact of New Public Management on the sustainability of innovations in Chinese e-government.

Gil-Garcia [12] presents a framework for e-government success factors based on three categories of influences: environmental conditions, institutional arrangements, and organizational structures and processes. The framework lists several factors potentially leading to successful performance, a key element of sustainability.

First are the environmental factors, including demography, politics, and the size of the state economy. Politics, understood as votes for political parties, is not applicable to China; however, it is well-established that educational level, income, age, and the fiscal situation of the government are significant contributors to e-government success. Many of the environmental factors can thus be left out of this exploratory study because there is already empirical evidence of their importance [27]. With respect to the political dimension, we propose that in China, we can examine the general political inclinations of the local governments by looking at their overall strategies by exploring the role of New Public Management values reflected in policy documents.

Secondly, institutional arrangements, “civil service rules, executive orders, legislative committees, IT standards, and other state and federal regulations have an impact on government-wide website functionality” [12]. The impact, importantly, is just as much indirect, because the institutions shape the organizational level. The interplay between institutions and technologies is a cornerstone in the e-government literature [9, 10, 42]. Given the municipal-level focus of this study, the institutional arrangements of interests would be provincial level, for instance, if there are any incentive schemes or general guidelines for how local government should develop their e-government. Furthermore, the evaluation and benchmarking of innovation itself might be an important factor in incentivising sustained innovation [33, 43].

Thirdly, the organizational factors are split in organizational characteristics and management strategies and practices. Like Dunleavy et al., Gil-Garcia stresses the importance of the management practice of in-house capacity versus outsourcing. The characteristics of the organization are also assigned importance, for instance, the number of employees, specialized training, budget size, etc. In the Chinese case, this kind of data would be very hard to collect without extensive fieldwork, and it is not feasible for this study. Consequently, the impact of these factors will remain unknown to us, even though they warrant further study.

We contend that the factors found to lead to e-government success in one year are likely to lead to effectiveness over time as well, and therefore e-government success provides a useful basis for exploring sustainability. In the next section, we operationalize the framework along with the lessons from the broader literature in a concrete research design.

Research Design and Methodology

This research is based on an exploratory comparative case study design aiming at theory development [44]. The purpose of the study is to identify how key factors influence the sustainability of e-government innovations by Chinese local governments [44]. In developing this theory we depend on the theoretical and empirical insights on the sustainability of public sector innovations in the context of other countries [7, 32, 37], as well as the rich body of literature on e-government and local government innovations in China. As such, we give “priority to refine theories” [44] rather than taking a purely inductive approach.

An exploratory approach requires a clear limitation of the phenomenon, the time, the setting, and the population of cases in order to guarantee a sufficient in-depth analysis of potentially important factors and relationships [45]. In our study, we delimit the inquiry to the websites of prefectural-level municipal government websites from 2006 to 2015. Enhancing the online presence of all government units is a major and highly visible component of the e-government strategy of the Chinese government in that period [46]. In the literature on public sector innovations, the nearly 300 prefectural-level cities are often taken as a population to study the diversity of local innovations and the establishment of certain patterns [27]. In the next section, we will further elaborate identifying information-rich cases for this exploratory exercise.

In 2002, the Chinese central government established a nationwide benchmark to monitor the progress of the online presence of key government units, the Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Report (Zhongguo zhengfu wangzhan jixiao pinggu zong baogao), and the Ministry of Commerce publishes the resulting assessment reports on their website. The yearly evaluations provide a score of 0–100. The reports contain lists of benchmarking scores for the prefectural-level cities with varying coverage. We use the reports from the years 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015 (see Appendix 1). The overall information on progress and the scores of individual units provide us with data for the novelty and effectiveness of innovation:
  1. 1.

    Novelty: represented by new categories for evaluation; for example, the introduction of software applications as a component of local governments’ web portals to allow for a better interaction with citizens.

     
  2. 2.

    Effectiveness: measured by the scores on different indicators over the years.

     

The measurement of the effectiveness over time allows us to assess the sustainability of an innovation. The question of sustainability is not a binary one, it deals with degrees that we can track through the benchmark scores. We do not trace in detail what happens on the website in terms of singular functions added, improved, redesigned, or removed. We focus instead on the ability over time to adapt the website (the innovation) to fulfil the incrementally changing policy goals from central government as reflected in the indicators of the website survey. To what degree does the innovation solve the policy problem it was supposed to solve by central government policy? A sustainable innovation solves the policy problem at hands. Over time, it remains effective, and adapts to a changing context. An unsustainable innovation might solve the problem initially. Yet, by failing to accommodate for contextual changes the level of effectiveness decreases over time.

Case Selection and Data Collection

In 2016, the total number of Chinese prefectural-level cities (diji shi) was 293 [47]. The benchmark reports contain scores for 244 of them concurrently in the reports we analyse. The remaining cities are autonomous minority prefectures and lower levels of governments that have been raised to the level of cities during the period of study. For the new cities, there is no apparent bias. However, the minority areas – given their relative lack of financial resources – perform surprisingly well. These areas could be singled out for further study. However, for practical reasons, we use only the cities that are mentioned in all reports as basis for case selection. Bearing in mind our interest in the sustainability of e-government innovations in the period 2006–2015, we identified the cases that exhibited the most surprising or extreme patterns [48]. This sampling was carried out in a stratified manner to identify crucial cases, so, cases of protracted increase, decrease, or fluctuations in the score are particularly informative. The case selection procedure is described in detail in Appendix 1, the cases thus identified are illustrated in Table 1.
Table 1

Types of cases

Type

City

Down-up-up

Tangshan↑

Daqing↑

Huzhou ↓*

Zhanjiang*

Down-down-up

N.A.

Down-up-down

Tongling↑

Jieyang ↑

Rizhao ↓

Zhoushan↓

Down-down-down

Huangshi ↓

 

Ordos ↑*

Qinhuangdao ↑

Shaoxing ↓

Foshan*

Up-up-down

Chengde ↑

Huangshan ↑

Yingtan *

Xinyu *

Up-down-up

Wenzhou↑*

Yantai ↑

Hengyang ↓

Suzhou *

Up-down-down

Handan ↓

Selection criteria applied: ↑ = high performance; ↓ = low performance; * = high innovation score in 2015. Source: authors’ compilation based on the Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Report various years

To assess the degree of innovation of local government websites, we collected and analysed the website-performance scores of the case cities and their respective provincial-level governments in the Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Report of the years 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015. The indicators and measures of the website evaluation report change over time. Even so, they reflect overall e-government policy, and they are vetted by the ministry, so the localities should follow the general directions. The criteria are settled in advance, which implies that theoretically, all the localities could improve at the same time.

Regarding factors that potentially influence the sustainability of innovation, we collected the municipal government work reports and informatization plans from 2006 to 2016 from government websites. We complemented this data with provincial level directives from databases, such as Renmin Shuju (local government documents) and Wanfang Data (local directives). Content analysis of the documentary sources was carried out with NVivo 10. The search terms of our queries were the shorthand for public-private partnerships “PPP” (PPP), “outsourcing” (waibao), “government service procurement” (zhengfu fuwu goumai), “performance management” (jixiao guanli), “competition” (jingzheng), and “marketization” (shichanghua), which we contend measure the extent to which the organizational culture is based on New Public Management-values. Other search terms were, “innovation” (chuangxin), “e-government” (dianzi zhengwu), and “website” (wangzhan), to measure the level of attention given to these aspects in the general context of government work reports. Furthermore, we registered the occurrence of the terms, “citizens” (shimin), “masses” (qunzhong), and “users” (yonghu) as they measure the type of receiver of the website service. Finally, we searched for the word “party” (dang) as a measure for political loyalty to the Communist Party of China. More detail on our codes and results are available in Tables 3 and 4, and the Appendix.

Analysis

The aim of this analysis is to identify and explore the factors that influence sustained innovation in e-government. First, we assess whether e-government innovation was sustained, and describe the characteristics of different localities. Next, we explore factors related to the organizational culture. Then, we examine the institutional factors, both on the local organizational level, and the drivers and constraints from the provincial level.

The analysis finds that enhanced effectiveness (successful adaptation of the innovation) is often followed by a fall in the score (inability to sustain the innovation). In fact, only 59 of the 244 cities (24%) continuously enhance their score in the website evaluations, the majority thus to some extent fail to sustain their innovations.

Sustained E-government Innovation?

To gain an overview of the effectiveness of the government websites, we compiled Table 2 that presents the scores for the provinces in various years, changes in the score during three-year periods, and the score for the whole period 2006–2015. We find that Foshan, Suzhou, Daqing, Wenzhou, and Ordos performed best in 2015, with scores ranging from 76.00 to 81.70. At the other end of the spectrum, Handan, Huangshan, Huangshi, and Qinhuangdao scored lower than 46.50.
Table 2

Local government website benchmarking scores and trends

 

Scores

Trends (changes over time)

 

2006

2009

2012

2015

2006–09

2009–12

2012–15

2006–2015

Tangshan

22.6

21.36

51.4

60.6

−1.24

30.04

9.2

38

Huzhou

59.7

50.06

51.5

52.6

−9.64

1.44

1.1

−7.1

Daqing

35.13

33.11

48.1

77.2

−2.02

14.99

29.1

42.07

Zhoushan

56.99

52.78

56.1

55.8

−4.21

3.32

−0.3

−1.19

Zhanjiang

33.34

25.34

49.3

55.1

−8

23.96

5.8

21.76

Tongling

52.14

40.72

48.6

46.5*

−11.42

7.88

−2.1

−5.64

Jieyang

25.27

24.02

47.2

46.5*

−1.25

23.18

−0.7

21.23

Rizhao

35.23

34.64

47.6

46.5*

−0.59

12.96

−1.1

11.27

Huangshi

51.35

49.12

48.2

46.5*

−2.23

−0.92

−1.7

−4.85

Ordos

12.05

33

62.4

76

20.95

29.4

13.6

63.95

Shaoxing

54.53

55.14

55.3

58.4

0.61

0.16

3.1

3.87

Foshan

61.83

67.84

71.4

81.7

6.01

3.56

10.3

19.87

Qinhuangdao

38.97

39

41.8

46.5*

0.03

2.8

4.7

7.53

Chengde

1.68

32.46

47.2

46.5*

30.78

14.74

−0.7

44.82

Huangshan

45.41

48.74

57.8

46.5*

3.33

9.06

−11.3

1.09

Yingtan

52.75

60.92

61.7

60.3

8.17

0.78

−1.4

7.55

Xinyu

49.53

55.49

60.4

59.6

5.96

4.91

−0.8

10.07

Wenzhou

57.08

65.1

64.2

76.5

8.02

−0.9

12.3

19.42

Yantai

57.5

57.61

53.3

54.9

0.11

−4.31

1.6

−2.6

Hengyang

31.25

58.39

58.1

61

27.14

−0.29

2.9

29.75

Suzhou

66.97

73.79

65.2

79.3

6.82

−8.59

14.1

12.33

Handan

52.01

56.4

49.6

46.5*

4.39

−6.8

−3.1

−5.51

* = value assigned by authors.

Source: Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Report various years

We find variation in how the cities attained their scores, including as a steady process and a disjointed one. Some cities like Ordos and Foshan have increased continuously at a high level. Others, like Daqing, Chengde, and Hengyang, experienced setbacks for one three-year period, but managed to gain considerably over the decade. In contrast, the cities of Handan, Huzhou, and Tongling lost points over time, even though they had one or more periods with increases. The cases thus encompass successes and failures, but most importantly, they illustrate that innovations are not necessarily sustained over time.

In Table 2, we create a typology based on these patterns. “Sustained innovation” refers to the cities that keep progressing over the 10 years of the study, and can be further subdivided into high performers (Ordos, Foshan) and low performers (Shaoxing, Qinhuangdao). Another type is the “wake-up call”, which denotes a drop followed by an increase, as can be seen in Daqing and Tangshan. An “increase and setback” pattern is apparent in Chengde and Huangshan, where the websites progress and then lose momentum. Similar are the cases of “dip” (Yantai and Suzhou) and “double dip” (Tongling and Zhoushan) that enhance their scores, only to see the gains largely disappear in the next period. The wake-up call, the increase and setback, the dip, and the double dip patterns are all characterized in varying degrees by instability and illustrate inability to sustain innovations.

As discussed above, extant literature would point to different factors to explain the ability or lack thereof to sustain innovations in the examined cases, such as organizational culture, institutional capacity, and political pressure. In the following section, we analyse the content of government documents to explore the first of these potential factors, namely the organizational culture, and particularly the role of New Public Management ideas.

Does Openness to New Public Management Influence Sustainability?

The local governments, knowingly or unknowingly, imbue their policy with markers of their openness to New Public Management. When policy makers use terms such as “competition” (jingzheng), “outsourcing” (waibao), “performance management” (jixiao guanli), “government service procurement” (zhengwu fuwu goumai), and “PPP” (PPP) they formulate their texts within the New Public Management paradigm.

Table 3 shows the occurrence in the documents of key terms related to New Public Management and therefore hypothesized to correlate negatively with sustainability of e-government innovation [37, 49]. The table is based on 224 sources of three different types: government work reports (201 documents), informatization five-year-plans (20 documents), and government affairs service centre work reports (3 documents). It is important to remember, that the numbers in Table 3 are not directly comparable between the cities. The sampled documents vary in type and length, and therefore a high number may be indicative simply of longer texts and a larger number of them. We can, however, compare the weight of different terms within the single cases, so that a higher relative frequency of a term indicates a focus area in the local government policy. For instance, Daqing mentions “outsourcing” 37 times, and does not mention “PPP” at all (see Table 3). In contrast, Tongling mentions both “outsourcing” and “PPP” each 4 times. We interpret that Daqing emphasizes outsourcing, because of the high number of mentions of the term relative to PPP.
Table 3

Occurrence of Key Terms from New Public Management

Case/Code

PPP (PPP)

Outsourcing (waibao)

Government Service Procurement (zhengfu fuwu goumai)

Performance Management (jixiao guanli)

Competition (jingzheng)

Marketization (shichanghua)

Huzhou

0

22

0

1

27

15

Daqing

0

37

0

1

20

27

Zhanjiang

3

6

0

1

42

18

Tangshan

2

6

0

3

48

7

Tongling

4

4

2

1

26

6

Jieyang

1

3

1

0

28

4

Zhoushan

1

6

0

0

34

8

Rizhao

1

12

2

2

25

10

Huangshi

2

1

3

2

32

14

Ordos

0

1

1

1

12

4

Shaoxing

2

15

1

1

58

26

Foshan

0

9

1

10

48

16

Qinhuangdao

1

16

0

3

51

8

Chengde

0

5

0

0

20

3

Huangshan

3

1

0

0

30

9

Yingtan

5

0

3

3

20

12

Xinyu

5

2

5

2

23

13

Wenzhou

1

3

2

2

13

9

Yantai

1

15

1

0

45

15

Hengyang

2

6

2

1

9

8

Suzhou

0

20

2

1

27

5

Handan

0

3

0

3

39

4

Source: Authors’ compilation from case study database

Of the selected keywords “innovation” (chuangxin), “party” (dang), and “competition” (jingzheng) are most frequently mentioned in the sources. Expectedly, innovation is mentioned more than the other terms. This likely relates to the application of innovation to a broad range of activities whereas e-government and website refer to more specific government work. In addition to the terms presented in Table 3, we also conducted a search for the terms “customer” (guke), “joined-up-government” (zhengti zhengfu), and “New Public Management” (xin gonggong guanli), but found no instances. The customer concept is important in New Public Management, but it has not found its way into this area of the Chinese government. The two latter terms are mainly used in academic literature, so the use in official policy documents could be an indicator for a high degree of interaction with academics, or that academic literature plays an important role in policy making. Academic influence, however, was not evident based on the lack of direct reference to core concepts.

As a point of departure, it is reasonable to assert that New Public Management values overall have little influence. Most documents mention some of the terms, but usually just once or twice. Even so, Chinese government documents go through a long process of internal checks and revisions, so when a new concept is introduced, it is a clear sign of institutionalization. Additionally, in the sources, the cities emphasize different terms. We explore how these differences in organizational culture relate to different abilities to sustain innovations, and find that the interaction of New Public Management with elements such as citizen focus and political commitment to e-government and website construction can lead to high effectiveness in the long term.

Outsourcing

From the analysis of Huzhou, which is a case of failure to sustain innovation, it may appear that “outsourcing”, mentioned 22 times, is to blame, and it would support findings in the literature. Nonetheless, Daqing – a major success – mentions “outsourcing” even more frequently (37 times), and therefore the case challenges an interpretation that focuses on involving third parties in service production is always bad. In fact, the documents from Daqing also mention “marketization” often (27 times), and one could imagine that reliance on private actors over time has generated experience with how to unleash the market forces without losing control. Yet, both Daqing and Huzhou have a very selective approach to New Public Management, focusing mostly on outsourcing. Daqing, representing a trial site for outsourcing, demonstrates that it is possible under certain circumstances to embrace a limited set of New Public Management-values and improve the government website. This finding might imply that a type of outsourcing “with Chinese characteristics” could effectively sustain innovation, or that single elements of New Public Management might be used without incurring the pathologies found by Dunleavy et al. [37]. A way to address this is by looking at the most successful cases of Ordos and Foshan. Ordos has experienced massive and sustained improvements over the years, and – in line with expectations – the city mentions New Public Management terms only very sporadically, the most frequently mentioned term being “competition” which is mentioned only 12 times. In contrast, the focus on “website” in their documents is pronounced with 32 mentions (see Table 4), and the city has a publicly available informatization plan (see Table 5). Ordos relates to policy in a pragmatic way, if we judge by the documents which do not rely on the political ideological framework of New Public Management, and furthermore, mentions the “Party” relatively infrequently (83 times, as compared to, for instance, 107 mentions of innovation, see Table 4). Foshan, on the other hand, is at the same time a champion of New Public Management values and a high performer. Foshan’s documents refer to “outsourcing” 9 times, “competition” 48 times, and “marketization” 16 times. Notably, Foshan puts strong emphasis on “innovation” (mentioned 403 times). We suggest that the apparent paradox of both Ordos and Foshan creating sustainable innovation despite different approach to New Public Management can be explained by attention, albeit from different sources, being directed towards the area. Public accountability and institutionalized focus might function as substitutes and thus both lead to better sustainability of innovation.
Table 4

Occurrence of Reference Terms

 

Innovation (chuangxin)

e-Government (dianzi zhengwu)

Website (wangzhan)

Citizens (shimin)

Masses (qunzhong)

Users (yonghu)

Party (dang)

Huzhou

245

22

14

19

75

11

40

Daqing

152

5

0

35

157

4

222

Zhanjiang

230

18

0

31

179

13

83

Tangshan

265

4

2

32

282

2

105

Tongling

155

30

14

30

139

9

77

Jieyang

152

29

7

14

90

15

66

Zhoushan

227

2

38

22

131

0

43

Rizhao

171

21

6

20

153

9

138

Huangshi

225

11

1

21

123

5

89

Ordos

107

8

32

15

114

0

83

Shaoxing

311

40

22

16

126

23

48

Foshan

403

5

1

96

86

2

56

Qinhuangdao

237

7

2

7

105

3

71

Chengde

115

2

0

11

53

3

46

Huangshan

140

7

1

38

123

1

94

Yingtan

209

5

1

35

152

0

96

Xinyu

257

20

28

24

145

11

102

Wenzhou

136

2

0

20

75

0

31

Yantai

312

5

1

17

197

11

113

Hengyang

118

7

4

10

81

1

61

Suzhou

307

32

31

52

86

9

71

Handan

166

2

0

16

138

0

69

Source: Authors’ compilation from case study database

Performance Management

Another selected keyword is “performance management” (see Table 3), which we hypothesized to lead to a short-term focus and inferior outcomes. Handan and Yingtan seem to corroborate that when a locality puts relatively high emphasis on “performance management” (both mention the term 3 times, which is frequent compared to their mentions of other keywords), the result is failure over the long run. Even so, Qinhuangdao (mentioning “performance management” 3 times) partly falsifies the hypothesis, because the city manages to produce a slow but continuous growth. Even more pronounced is the success of Foshan, which also mentions “performance management” most frequently, namely 10 times. As we have noted above, Foshan is a successful case that in many ways challenges the idea that New Public Management is bad for sustainable innovation.

Shaoxing frequently mentions “e-government” (40 times), and Zhoushan evokes “websites” 38 times in the overall planning documents (see Table 4), thereby signalling that these areas are an important part of local governance. At least, this awareness indicates that website quality will likely be in the spotlight (and in performance management indicators), and so we would expect more effort to be put into website construction and maintenance. However, as we see from the scores of Shaoxing and Zhoushan, focus on the website is far from sufficient to guarantee sustainability (Table 2). In fact, it seems that there may be a disconnect between “performance management” and website construction, which may be true because in those two cases “performance management” is only mentioned once or not at all (see Table 3). Given the importance of performance assessments coupled to career incentives, future studies need to take into consideration how to embed the values into the performance assessments and incentive structures, which seems to create the necessary accountability or responsiveness.

User Focus

When the government commits to the people who use the websites, it bodes well for sustainability, as will be illustrated below. Mentioning “masses”, “citizens”, or “users”, implies that the documents address issues related to the residents in the city rather than debate government internal issues. Such an outward focus, we imagine, could be an important factor for creating sustainable innovation through accountability or responsiveness [12]. It does not appear to matter which of the three concepts are used.

To assess the influence of New Public Management, we can look at the cases of Jieyang and Shaoxing that mention “users” frequently (15 and 23 times respectively). As written above, none of the localities use the New Public Management-related term “customer” and “user” is thus the term that comes closest. Jieyang has a modest occurrence of New Public Management terms (see Table 3), and mention both “masses” (90 times), “citizens” (14 times), and “users” (15 times). In general, Jieyang performs well, but in a very unstable pattern (see Table 2). Shaoxing mentions “users” 23 times and is characterized by a strong focus on “e-government” (40 references) and “website” (22 references) in the documents. However, there is no correlation with strong improvements, even though the upward trend is stable. However, as the cases of Shaoxing and Jieyang tell us, it may be a general focus on groups of people outside government rather than the (New Public Management-related) “user” focus that undergirds successful and sustainable improvements.

The documents from Foshan, a city exhibiting high sustainability, apply the term “citizens” (96 times) more frequently than the words “users” (2 times) and “masses” (86 times). This is a marker for a value set different from New Public Management. The city is also characterized by a (comparatively speaking) low number of references to the Communist Party (56 times). Foshan shows that the citizen focus (potentially linked to accountability) and concentration on innovation creates a fertile ground for experimentation with other strategies of public management without invoking their negative sides.

Other city governments use the term “masses” frequently compared to the terms “citizens” or “users”, such as, Qinhuangdao, Handan, and Yantai, while Suzhou uses the terms more evenly (see Table 4). Strong focus on “citizens” is also visible in Huangshan and Daqing. However, whereas Daqing and Foshan are excellent performers, Huangshan plummets (by more than 11 points) in the 2015 evaluation. Huangshan is thus an example that low reliance on New Public Management terms and frequent mention of “citizens” (38 times) is not sufficient to ensure continuous high effectiveness. The reason for Huangshan’s inability to sustain innovation should thus probably be found among other factors pointed out in previous research. Thus, the case serves as an important reminder that we are exploring additional explanations rather than covering the entire spectrum of factors.

The case of Daqing is interesting, because it mentions both “citizens” (35 times) and “masses” (157 times) frequently, and one may infer that – like Tangshan (“citizens” 32 times, and “masses” 282 times) – there is a heavy focus on the people who are envisioned to use the website. The impression of the importance of the user focus is further strengthened as Ordos, one of the best performers, mentions “masses” 114 times.

In sum, we have identified several factors that, in various ways, support or constrain the long-term sustainability of the local-government websites. Our analysis indicates that there is more than one pathway to achieve continued high effectiveness. These pathways can include elements of New Public Management, but only when supplemented by citizen focus, political control, or incentive structures, that mediate inherent weaknesses such as a tendency to fragmentation or short-term focus.

Institutional Capacity for Handling Technology Decisions: Informatization Plans

In an organizational environment with multiple agency interests and lack of central coordination, continuity is at risk. Accordingly, some cities provide an informatization plan, which is a document that sets out the development directions for a five-year period. Such a policy is meant to ensure a certain level of coordination across government.

To measure the extent of central coordination, Table 5 was compiled by a query to our database on the availability of informatization plans in the 22 case cities. Such plans would be an indication of local emphasis on the integration of management of the government information ecology. As can be read from Table 5, seven of the 22 case cities did not publish an informatization plan on their website, including Tangshan, Huangshan, Chengde, Yingtan, Huangshi, Yantai, and Handan. At the same time, the latter four are quite open to New Public Management. As expected, they are among the lowest performers among all the cases. Hence, there is support for the argument that lack of other coordinating mechanisms is detrimental for the sustainability of e-government innovations.
Table 5

Does the city have a publicly available Informatization plan?

 

Publicly available informatization plan?

Yes

No

Huzhou

2011

 

Daqing

2011

 

Zhanjiang

2011

 

Tangshan

 

X

Tongling

2006

 

Jieyang

2011

 

Zhoushan

2011

 

Rizhao

2011

 

Huangshi

 

X

Ordos

2010

 

Shaoxing

2006 + 2011

 

Foshan

2010

 

Qinhuangdao

2012

 

Chengde

 

X

Huangshan

 

X

Yingtan

 

X

Xinyu

2006 + 2011

 

Wenzhou

2006 + 2011

 

Yantai

 

X

Hengyang

2011

 

Suzhou

2011

 

Handan

 

X

Source: Authors’ compilation from case study database

We find that many of these factors interact to create surprising outcomes. For example, Tangshan has not published an informatization plan, but its website surprisingly scores relatively high. If we look at other keywords in the documents from Tangshan, then “masses” stand out as frequently mentioned (282 times), which could indicate an orientation towards the Communist Party as a coordinating and accountability mechanism. The documents adopt the communist rhetoric of cadre and masses, but with a focus on the receivers of the public service rather than on the Party itself. In the documents, Tangshan mentions the “Party” frequently (105 times), but comparatively not as predominantly as the term “masses” (282 times). This could be an indication that the previously identified “citizen-focus” is quite important, and shows that lack of managerial capacity might be substitutable with political or ideological control mechanisms. This outcome might be considered a Chinese characteristic of policy making, where campaigns result in quick implementation and viable solutions. This differs from the approach of a Weberian bureaucracy which would rather apply rules and regulations. So, using the informatization plans as an indicator for government capacity of prefectural-level cities, our findings point to the importance of the government capacity of prefectural-level cities along with a strong citizen focus. Additionally, the role of political control and communist rhetoric is a potential substitute factor to consider, as we saw in the case of Tangshan.

Political and Managerial Influences from the Provincial Level

According to the literature on policy-making in China, higher levels of government can influence lower levels in different ways, either by incentivizing local governments to innovate or, in contrast, constrain their innovation capacity by demarcating the boundaries of change. We examined, how the performance and political commitment of provincial-level governments to e-government innovations influence the sustainability of local government innovations. Simply put, can provincial governments create accountability or responsiveness around e-government website performance?

The first indicator, labelled “role model”, we operationalize as the score of the provincial-level government units in the benchmark study, and its development over time (Table 6). We compared the overall performance, as well as the development pattern over time. Regarding the development pattern, only in 4 cases do we see a match in development patterns in the city and provincial level: in Daqing, Zhanjiang, Ordos, and Wenzhou. Zhanjiang is in Guangdong, and Wenzhou in Zhejiang. Since the sample includes additional cities from the two provinces that show no match, we find little support for the explanatory power of this indicator.
Table 6

Development of scores provincial capital and provincial government

 

Pattern prefectural-level city scores 2006–2009–2012–2015

Provincial Capital City, Province

Pattern Province score 2006–2009–2012–2015

Huzhou

down up up

Hangzhou, Zhejiang

up-down-up

Daqing*

down up up

Harbin, Heilongjiang

down-up-up

Zhanjiang*

down up up

Guangzhou, Guangdong

down-up-up

Tangshan

down up up

Shijiazhuang, Hebei

down-down-up

Tongling

down up down

Hefei, Anhui

down-up-up

Jieyang

down up down

Guangzhou, Guangdong

down-up-up

Zhoushan

down up down

Hangzhou, Zhejiang

up-down-up

Rizhao

down up down

Jinan, Shandong

down-up-up

Huangshi

down down down

Wuhan, Hubei

down-up-up

Ordos*

up up up

Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

up-up-up

Shaoxing

up up up

Hangzhou, Zhejiang

up-down-up

Foshan

up up up

Guangzhou, Guangdong

down-up-up

Qinhuangdao

up up up

Shijiazhuang, Hebei

down-down-up

Chengde≠

up up down

Shijiazhuang, Hebei

down-down-up

Huangshan

up up down

Hefei, Anhui

down-up-up

Yingtan

up up down

Nanchang, Jiangxi

equal-equal-up

Xinyu

up up down

Nanchang, Jiangxi

equal-equal-up

Wenzhou*

up down up

Hangzhou, Zhejiang

up-down-up

Yantai

up down up

Jinan, Shandong

down-up-up

Hengyang

up down up

Changsha, Hunan

up-up-up

Suzhou

up down up

Nanjing, Jiangsu

down-up-up

Handan

up down down

Shijiazhuang, Hebei

down-down-up

* = perfect match; ≠ = perfect mismatch

Source: Authors’ compilation based on the Chinese Government Website Performance Assessment Report various years

The second indicator we labelled “enforcer”, to explore if and to what extent measures of control on behalf of the provincial-level government have an influence on sustainability. We looked for specific documents that provide guidance for prefectural-level cities to implement solutions in the field of e-government, and more specifically, improve their website presence (see Table 7).
Table 7

Authoritative documents provincial level

City

Province

Authoritative document of provincial level governments to advance e-Government solutions / informatization/ website performance

Rules or Regulations

Structure (e.g., establishment of e-Government platform)

Website

Year of issuance

Tongling

Anhui

Anhui Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2016

Huangshan

Anhui

Anhui Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2016

Zhanjiang

Guangdong

Guangdong Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

Yes

2014

Jieyang

Guangdong

Guangdong Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

Yes

2014

Foshan

Guangdong

Guangdong Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

Yes

2014

Tangshan

Hebei

Hebei Province Informatization Rules

Yes

No

2012

Qinhuangdao

Hebei

Hebei Province Informatization Rules

Yes

No

2012

Chengde

Hebei

Hebei Province Informatization Rules

Yes

No

2012

Handan

Hebei

Hebei Province Informatization Rules

Yes

No

2012

Daqing

Heilongjiang

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

Huangshi

Hubei

Hubei Province Informatization Rules

Yes

No

2009

Hengyang

Hunan

Hunan Province Informatization Rules

Yes

No

2004

Ordos

Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia AR Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2010

Suzhou

Jiangsu

Jiangsu Province Informatization Rules

Yes

Yes, in combination with transparency

2011

Yingtan

Jiangxi

N.A.

No

No

N.A.

Xinyu

Jiangxi

N.A.

No

No

N.A.

Rizhao

Shandong

Shandong Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2007

Yantai

Shandong

Shandong Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2007

Huzhou

Zhejiang

Zhejiang Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2010

Zhoushan

Zhejiang

Zhejiang Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2010

Shaoxing

Zhejiang

Zhejiang Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2010

Wenzhou

Zhejiang

Zhejiang Province Informatization Promotion Rules

Yes

No

2010

Source: Authors’ compilation based on the listed government documents

The data shows that 9 out of the 11 provinces in which the prefectural-level cities in our sample are located issued authoritative documents relating to informatization in the period from the early 2000s to 2015 (Table 7). Jiangxi has no publicly available document, whereas Anhui Province issued the respective document only in 2015, which was too late to influence the website scores. It is surprising that only the documents of two provinces – Guangdong and Jiangsu – include the term “government website”, despite the prevalence of the term “e-government service” that is present in all nine documents. Again, in all documents (despite the time lag between their issuance) the coordination of e-government initiatives and the establishment of so-called “e-government platforms” is present. Due to the high degree of similarity of the values, the indicator is again not suitable to explain the diverse sustainability outcomes of website innovations.

Thus, both indicators show that provincial-level governments have little influence on the sustainability of e-government innovation in prefectural-level cities.

Conclusion

This study posed the question of what are the factors that influence the sustainability of e-government innovations in China’s prefectural-level cities? The findings of this study illustrate that innovation unfolds over time. Therefore, longitudinal analyses are necessary to establish whether a city has a genuine ability to sustain innovation or if innovations are superficial and short-lived. The exploratory case study found that the sustainability of innovations is an issue in Chinese e-government, and thereby mirrors findings from other countries that lament the high rate of failure in e-government. The study also identified previously overlooked factors.

We first found that an organizational culture that orients itself toward the receivers of the service, be it citizens or masses, enhances the sustainability of the innovation. This study shows that the cities focusing on accountability to the citizens or users in a broader sense not only improve faster, but – crucially – they also sustain their innovations better.

Secondly, an orientation towards innovation enhances the sustainability of innovations. The logic here is that when a city pays deliberate attention to innovation, they are also more likely to create sustainable innovation. This “focus” or “political commitment” variable should be tested further in quantitative studies.

Thirdly, the availability of a municipal informatization strategy enhances the sustainability of innovations through long-term planning. The availability of an informatization plan that situates the strategic process on an inter-organizational level seemed to have a positive influence on the sustainability of innovation on the websites. The explanation could be that local governments try to attain a holistic vision of the local e-government ecology, and focus on overarching coordination issues.

Fourthly, it was less clear how the overall New Public Management value-orientation would influence the innovative sustainability. The pathologies we would expect include fragmentation, siloization, and loss of in-house capacity. Although this study does not falsify claims that New Public Management has an overall negative effect on sustainable innovation, some caveats are needed for the elements of “outsourcing” and “performance management”. From the cases of Huzhou and Daqing it was apparent that outsourcing could be coupled to both failure and success. Due to the limitations of this study, we can only conclude there appears to be no direct relation between outsourcing and failure. Based on this reasoning, whereas comprehensive outsourcing may constrain sustainable innovation, outsourcing of a limited number of tasks, maintenance of in-house capacity, and availability of effective mechanisms to manage outsourcing could enhance the sustainability. The findings indicate that it would be relevant to consider thresholds; for instance, how many tasks can be outsourced before the benefits disappear? Additionally, it would be important to examine the mechanisms of organizational learning, such as, are there practices in place that absorb knowledge from the external partners? In-house experts might learn from external ideas and practices. Finally, it should also be considered how the contractual relations between the local government and the external providers of website services are managed. Continuing the discussion of how New Public Management-elements affect sustainable innovation, the concept of “performance management” also exhibited mixed results. A key point appears to be the connection between the strategic goals of government and performance management: Short-term focus seems to constrain sustainable innovation, and performance management that aligns with government strategy seems to enhance sustainable innovation.

There was no empirical evidence of provincial-level governments influencing the sustainability of innovations by prefectural-level cities. In the data, we were unable to demonstrate any systematic relationship between sustainable innovation in the prefectural-level cities and the performance or political commitment of provincial-level governments to e-government innovations. In other words, higher-level government (both as “enforcer” and “role model”) has no clear impact on the sustainability of local e-government innovation. In fact, indicators relating directly to the capacity of prefectural-level cities are more promising to explain the varying degrees of sustainability of innovations.

In future work, two main directions of inquiry would be important to follow. First, explorative studies could test the spectrum of factors. This study has bracketed factors that are likely to be very important. For instance, theory could be improved by exploring the supply side including the power of the information technology industry, and factors such as the characteristics of the workforce that implements e-government at the organizational level. Secondly, longitudinal quantitative studies could be undertaken with inclusion of the variables and operationalization that we suggest in this paper.

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Copyright information

© Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public AdministrationSichuan UniversityChengduChina
  2. 2.Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS)BerlinGermany

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