| Tsai Wen-Hsuan, and Nicola Dean, (2014). "Experimentation under Hierarchy in Local Conditions: Cases of Political Reform in Guangdong and Sichuan, China." China Quarterly 218: 339-358.|
Reforms carried out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have long followed a traditional model of “experimentation under hierarchy.” This article will attempt to develop this model further by building a framework to illustrate the influence of both the political dynamics of hierarchical central–local relations and local economic circumstances in the introduction of large-scale political reforms. The initiation and expansion of “experimental points” are only permitted in those select few provinces with both favourable political and economic local conditions, allowing the CCP to minimize risk and make informed decisions regarding possibilities for nationwide reform. This article proposes that the hierarchical interaction of central and local political elites, and in particular provincial secretaries, can explain the extent of reforms, whereas the type of reform is linked to distinct provincial economic conditions and the provincial secretary’s interpretation of provincial priorities. Put succinctly, the CCP’s model of political reform can be specifically characterized as “experimentation under hierarchy in local conditions.”
This article presents a detailed discussion of both the political and economic considerations inherent in this concept, and provides examples of reform programmes in Guangdong and Sichuan to illustrate the model in practice.