Did Policy Experimentation in China Always Seek Efficiency? A case study of Wenzhou financial reform in 2012

Jinghan Zeng

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Policy experimentation has been widely considered a ‘magic bullet’ of policy improvement and key to economic prosperity in China. This article, however, argues that policy experimentation in China does not always seek policy efficiency. Rather, it can be manipulated as a political symbol without actually affecting practices. By taking a case study on Wenzhou's financial reform, this article illustrates that local policy experimentation can serve as a mechanism for the central government to legitimately delay reform practices—in the case of Wenzhou's financial reform in 2012, out of a desire to maintain socio-economic stability during the power succession at the 18th Party Congress. In this reform, socio-economic stability was deemed more important than developing a sustainable and effective long-term policy. This article provides a new perspective on understanding policy experimentation in China by proposing the idea of ‘symbolic reforms’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-356
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number92
Early online date2 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015

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