The county system and county governance
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The county system and county governance book
With a history dating back to the very origin of the Chinese imperial empire, the county system (xianzhi) has been described as the cornerstone of the Chinese state.1 It has become a subject of considerable attention in modern China, and has been the focus of local government reform and an important element of the state-building endeavor since the late Qing period. In the contemporary period, the county system has been strengthened following the much fuller bureaucratization of this level and the level below under the communist regime. Meanwhile, the county system – which is almost synonymous with rural governance – has been encroached by the administrative transformations brought about by (both real and fabricated) urbanization. This chapter analyses the evolution of, and the challenges to, the county system in both these two contexts.