Think Tank (March to April 2019)
Assoc Prof Li Mingjiang (centre), Coordinator of China Programme, IDSS, speaking at the workshop
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Central-Local Relations of China in the New Era
22 Mar 2019

On 22 March 2019, the China Programme of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, RSIS, organised a workshop titled “The Central-local Relations of China in the New Era”. The workshop brought together over 20 experts in the field of central-local relations from China, Australia, and Singapore.

Central-local relations of China have always been a critical but problematic issue in the country’s reform process. A careful balance between central and local governments is of paramount importance to the development and stability of the country. Since the “Reform and Opening” in 1978, the balance of power between the central and local governments has fluctuated. From Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, the central government had displayed a remarkable willingness to rely on the initiative and creativity of local governments. However, it appears that this has changed dramatically in recent years. Thus, the key question that arises is how to evaluate the changing dynamics and potential implications of the central-local relations in the new era.

The workshop addressed this question through six panel discussions. The first panel provided an overview and proposed a theoretical framework on central-local relations of China in the new era. The rest of the panels touched on four other issues. Panel two examined the resource governance issues through the lens of central-local relation; four sub-issue areas were covered, including land, water, energy, and food governance. It was followed by a panel discussion on social security and environmental governance. The four and fifth panels examined the role of subnational government in China’s international engagement, particularly the Belt and Road Initiative. The final section focused on fiscal relations and economic governance in the new era. The workshop saw an active exchange of views among the speakers and workshop participants.

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