Resolving Contradictions of Authoritarian Responsiveness: Petitions, Residential and Village Committees, and Street-Level Bureaucracy in China


Luce/ACLS Travel Grants in China Studies




In China, the state responds to citizen grievances with a variety of responsive institutions, represented by the petitioning system and residential and village committees. However, grassroots level bureaucrats—the primary state actors in charge of responsiveness—face contradictions inherent in authoritarian responsiveness. They are responsible for demonstrating omnipotence through resolving citizens' grievances, while charged with curbing the number of petitions and excessive demands, without much political clout. Through long-term ethnography of a grassroots level state in a northeastern city in China, this project explores how street-level bureaucrats reconcile the contradictions of authoritarian responsiveness in their interactions with the aggrieved and their supervisors.