Papers

Working Paper
Saul Wilson. Working Paper. “The Making of the Landless Landlord Peasant: Government Policy and the Development of Villages-in-the-City in Shanghai and Guangzhou (2021)”.Abstract
China's rapid urbanization has generated a substantial population of "landless peasants," villagers whose farmland has been fully expropriated.  The fate of these "landless peasants" has varied greatly from locale to locale.  In many cities, they have become wealthy urban landlords; in others, they have been pushed aside in the urbanization process.  When they have become urban landlords, they have often done so through the formation of village collective shareholding corporations and villages-in-the-city (also known as "urban villages" 城中村), which have in turn provided housing for many migrant workers.  Comparing Guangzhou, with its many villages-in-the-city and powerful village collectives, to Shanghai, with far fewer villages-in-the-city or village collectives, this paper argues that the radically different distributive policies adopted by these two cities stem from their divergent conceptions of urbanization.  Shanghai persisted in implementing Mao-era policies in which urbanized villagers were granted urban jobs and converted to urban citizens even when the government no longer had jobs to grant, while Guangzhou quickly adapted to the more market-oriented economy of the Reform Period.  These strategies for urbanizing villagers proved amply elastic over time, reflecting the ability of changing leaders and their changing preferences to make real change on the ground even in the face of the constraints imposed by local traditions and path dependencies.
Saul Wilson. Working Paper. “Moderation and Incipient Reversal of Urban-Rural Discrimination in Chinese Health Insurance (2014)”.Abstract

The Chinese health system has long privileged those with town and city hukou over villagers. This paper examines urban-rural discrimination in health insurance using data from the Chinese Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS). The central finding is urban privilege in the health system has declined substantially. Indeed, village hukou bearers now receive healthcare subsidies only slightly lower than those received by town/city hukou holders, and the vast majority of their insurance costs are covered by subsidies—more so than for town/city hukou holders. These results hold true even using relatively conservative definitions. Moreover, health insurance covers a comparable fraction of healthcare costs regardless of hukou. This convergence in insurance provision has occurred alongside a more gradual and less complete convergence in healthcare costs, which remain substantially higher for those with town/city hukou than for those with village hukou.

wilsonhukoudiscrimination14_06_12draft.pdf
Saul Wilson. Working Paper. “Taking the Mayor’s Measure: Personnel Changes Associated with Turnover in Chinese Municipal Leadership (2018)”.Abstract

Quantitative research on Chinese municipal governments tends to focus on the purportedly uniform, performance-based promotion incentives faced by top leaders—Party Secretaries and Mayors—effectively ignoring constraints from the complicated apparatus of municipal government and the possibility that they might exhibit personal policy preferences. This project takes a step backward to characterize the importance and nature of the top leadership in Chinese municipalities, with a particular focus on personnel management in municipal government agencies. Drawing on a dataset of party and government personnel from Fujian province, I show that, until about 2010, leaders of municipal bureaucracies were appointed and removed in a relatively stable pattern, and much of the time they were serving party secretaries or mayors who did not appoint them. Since 2010, however, personnel management has become less routinized, and as a result, agency leaders are increasingly serving under the top leadership who appointed them to their post.

Submitted
CHEN Hao, Saul Wilson, XU Changxin, Cheng Cheng, and WANG Yuhua. Submitted. “Dethroning the Mao-Era Elite: Using Organizational Histories to Illuminate Cadre Management (2021)”.Abstract

Using a novel dataset of cadres at the central and local levels, we show that the most lasting, thoroughgoing personnel changes in the PRC’s history occurred at the start of the reform era. Whereas discussions of momentous personnel changes in China tend to gravitate towards the Cultural Revolution, Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, and a litany of Mao-era purges, the long-term effects of these events on the composition of bureaucratic leadership pale in comparison to those undertaken at the start of the reform era. Most notably during the 1982–1984 administrative reforms, the newly installed reformist leadership at the center undertook a wholesale transformation of the Chinese political elite, ushering out Mao-era elites and replacing them with younger, professionalized cadres. We are able to show this early and extensive departure of Mao-era elites from leadership positions using a novel dataset of over 70,000 bureaucrats. Gleaned from organizational histories and yearbooks, this new dataset extends from the central level to the township level and from the founding of the party to the present, opening the door to much deeper insights into temporal and geographic variations in cadre management.

elite_transformation_in_post_mao_china.pdf
2021
Saul Wilson and CHEN Min (Translator). 2021. “The Sequencing of Property Rights and Planning Powers: Implications for Urban Redevelopment in China and the U.S. 辨析产权与规划权力的关系——中国控规与美国区划法的比较研究.” 国际城市规划 Urban Planning International, 1. Publisher's VersionAbstract

While similar to American zoning in many technical aspects, Chinese detailed control plans play a substantially different role in the distribution of property rights. Whereas American zoning was invented long after privately held property was widespread, and hence represented a diminution of extant property rights, Chinese detailed control plans clarify what property rights the state will sell to developers. As a result, the American zoning regime is more tolerant of developers seeking changes to zoning, while the Chinese system generally sees such behavior as an effort to get discounted access to state resources. Nonetheless, developers in both countries seek to influence planning restrictions: American developers do so through open negotiations with local governments, while Chinese developers are forced into more surreptitious lobbying. In the long run, inflexible planning restrictions make it very hard for anyone but the government to legally undertake even the smallest urban redevelopment projects in China; on the other hand, the state is able to get a higher share of land use value. Hence, while Chinese detailed control plans may formally resemble American zoning, they perform different functions with sharply different implications for urban development and redevelopment. 

尽管在诸多技术层面与美国区划法相近,中国的控制性详细规划在产权分配方面扮演着完全不同的角色。鉴于美国区划出现在私有产权盛行良久之后,因此象征着对现行产权的一种削减;中国的控制性详细规划则明确了政府会将何种产权授予开发商。因此,当开发商寻求规划变更时,美国对此更为宽容,而中国的制度却把这种行为视作试图变相谋取国家资源。无论如何,这两个国家的开发商都会设法对规划条件施加影响:美国开发商的做法是与当地政府公开谈判,而中国开发商不得不通过更加潜移默化的方式进行游说。长期而言,中国的规划条件调整使得政府以外的机构主导城市再开发项目的难度增大——无论其规模多小;但另一方面,国家也得以分享更多的土地使用价值。由此,虽然中国的控制性详细规划与美国区划法在形式上相似,但二者的作用并不相同,其对城市开发和再开发的影响也大相径庭。

zoningsequencing18_05_17l.pdf
2019
HOU Li 侯丽 and Saul Wilson. 12/2019. “Innovation and Evolution of Planning Decision-Making Institutions: A Comparison of Shanghai and Shenzhen City Planning Commissions 地方规划决策制度的创新与演进——以上海和深圳的规划委员会制度为例.” 城市规划学刊 Urban Planning Forum, 253, Pp. 87-93.Abstract

As the Chinese land development system became marketized in the 1980s and 1990s, local governments and their urban planning agencies came under increasingly untenable pressure as they both imposed and modified detailed planning restrictions. As a result, many cities restricted the broad discretionary authority granted under national law through reforms to both technical guidelines and decision-making institutions. The Chinese planning literature tends to focus inordinately on technical guidelines, but in practice even the best technical guidelines leave significant room for discretion. Hence this paper focuses on the reforms to decision-making institutions adopted in Shanghai and Shenzhen, especially the appointment of expert members to city planning commissions. Although their reforms varied in logic and depth, both cities chose to borrow the authority of planning experts to deflect responsibility for planning decisions away from the planning bureau. In doing so, they reinforced control over planning decisions by the planning bureau, but did nonetheless expand participation in planning. Most importantly, by creating clear procedures for plan adoption and modification and incorporating voices outside the planning agency, these reforms substantially increased the barriers to corruption or technically flawed plan modifications.

改革开放以来伴随着土地市场 化进程不断深入,地方政府与城市规划 职能管理部门在详细规划决策上面临着 越来越大的外界压力。通过技术规范与 制度约束,中国规划体系自计划经济传 统时期延续下来的较大的自由裁量权不 断受到挤压。以往的研究较为关注通过 规划的技术规范增强规划的刚性,然而 各地在诠释国家技术标准和强制性内容 上仍然拥有较大的灵活变通能力。尝试 通过追溯 1980 年代以来上海和深圳两地 规划决策制度的变迁,尤其是如何通过 规委会制度创新引入专家决策,从而总 结规划自由裁量权在地方分配与再分配 的逻辑与发展历程。尽管深沪两地规划 制度决策制度创新的程度和逻辑各不相 同,但在借助规划专家巩固规划专业权 威、促进审批程序规范透明上具有共通 性,并且两种制度设计都有效提高了控 规变更的技术和政治门槛。

 

hou_li_sun_rui_-upforum.2019.06.87-93.pdf
Saul Wilson and Zhang Xiaorong. 6/2019. “Village Reconstruction in Rural China: The Importance of Being Urban.” China Quarterly, 238, Pp. 438-460. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 

Using examples from village reconstruction programs in rural China, we show that local cadres often prioritize project visibility over publicized policy goals.  Rather than emphasizing land reclamation (or rural welfare) as central policies and the academic literature do, cadres and the projects they designed tended to focus on projecting an image of urban, wealthy villagers.  Where such image-driven behavior is most deleterious to villagers, it can evince opposition.  We observe that some areas avoid conflict by making these projects voluntary or adjusting projects to local conditions.  However, we provide a case study of a village with strong village leadership, showing that contrary to recent claims that village cadres are increasingly impotent, some maintain the authority to override widespread objections from villagers.