This paper aims to shed fresh light on rural–urban interaction and urbanization in a non-Western authoritarian context. It describes the change in post-Mao China from very vertical and separate government hierarchies for rural and urban areas, which inhibited rural–urban interactions, to a city-managing-county model, with rural counties around a city coming under the jurisdiction of the city government. Drawing on field research and statistical data, the paper elucidates the dynamics and complexities of this model, arguing that the combination of city-based bureaucrats favouring the city and the priority given to economic growth mandated by the central government often meant a lack of attention to rural development and support for county government. The paper also comments on the recent development of the province-managing-county model in China, and argues that given an urban-centred administrative system, whether the current reform can change the political and administrative equilibrium in China remains an open question.
- local government
- rural–urban interaction