The reform era has been associated with the waning authority of the Chinese Communist Party in urban society. While existing studies have investigated the Party’s self-reinvention through the incorporation into its ranks of professional groups and the new socioeconomic elite, much less attention has been given to how the Party has rebuilt its presence in neighborhoods among urban residents and migrant communities. Drawing on a case study in Kunming, this article argues that the Party has sought to deepen its territorial reach and regain political relevance by emphasizing welfare provision and service delivery at the grassroots. The rise of service-centered Party-building has seen increased co-optation of previously independent social organizations as “partners” and “collaborators” in service provision. Enrolling NGOs enables the Party to both revamp its image as a paternalistic redistributor and regain its ability to mobilize themasses through appropriating the vocabulary of participation and volunteerism that social organizations espouse. If in co-opting the professional and business elite the Party has successfully fused Party authority with market power, at the urban grassroots it has appropriated social forces to reestablish its presence and bolster its legitimacy, with important implications for the autonomy and professionalism of NGOs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science