What have we learned from a decade of research on the provision of public goods in the Chinese countryside? This review article surveys the literature in political science, economics and Chinese area studies. It describes the three dominant types of explanations for variation in the quality of public goods: Local elections, social sanctioning and economic policies. It then argues that these findings are plagued by a set of common problems. Scholars mean different things when they use the term public goods, making their findings difficult to compare. Furthermore, the most common measures of public goods ignore the ways in which local officials manipulate statistics to enhance their career prospects and the interconnected nature of geographic-administrative units in the Chinese state. I suggest some ways to address these problems, and make recommendations for new directions in research on the topic.
China, political economy, public goods, rural politics
© The China Quarterly, 2016
Newland, Sara A., "Which Public? Whose Goods? What We Know (and What We Don't) about Public Goods in Rural China" (2016). Government: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.