Development strategy and unequal public goods Provision in rural China
: a comparative case study

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research examines public goods provision in rural China from the perspective of within village inequality. While the existing literature has discussed the variations of public goods provision across different localities, an underexplored question is why public goods are provided more evenly in some villages than in others. I argue that county governments’ choice of different rural development strategies for different villages causes variations in the distribution of public goods. More specifically, I conceptualise two ideal types of development strategies for the county government: economically oriented and socially oriented strategies. I argue that when county governments adopt economically oriented strategies, they selectively provide more public goods to some groups within villages. Selective public goods provision by the county government further undermines the capacity of village collective action in equalising public goods provision. In villages where socially oriented development strategies are implemented, county governments provide public goods more equally, and village communities preserve stronger capacities for collective action so that they can equalise public goods provision. To further illustrate my theoretical arguments, I adopt the comparative case study method analysing two pairs of villages in the West Yunnan and the Yangzi Delta respectively. First, using government policy documents, I demonstrate how county governments make decisions in choosing different development strategies for different villages. Second, I further combine interviews, direct observations, media reports and statistical data to exemplify the mechanisms through which development strategies affect public goods provision within villages. The direct mechanism shows that under different development strategies, the evenness of government public goods provision is different. The indirect mechanism demonstrates that under different development strategies, village communities have different capability equalising public goods provision through collective action. These findings contribute to the literature on local government behaviour and community collective action in public goods provision.
Date of Award1 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorXin Sun (Supervisor), Marc Berenson (Supervisor) & Suzanne Yang (Supervisor)

Cite this