This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book studies the 'building of a new socialist countryside' (BNSC) in four cases across China, taking the county level as the central unit of investigation. It discusses the inner workings of the Chinese political system research approaches the underexposed 'black box' of sub-provincial politics and examines in detail the stages and processes of local policy implementation. The book shows how the agency of local implementing units in this case, county and township governments rather than being obstructive in nature, can actually push forward effective policy implementation to an increasing extent. China's new rural policies, as represented by BNSC, are the result of a synthesis of the decentralization of the initial reform era on the one hand and the re-centralization of the fiscal system of the 2000s on the other.