China Leadership Monitor

Exercising the Power of the Purse?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Over the past 10 years, the city of Wenling, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, has been developing a system of “consultative democracy” that has allowed citizens to ask about and express their opinions on subjects related to their interests, particularly capital construction, road building, and education. Over the past year, this experiment has been extended to include public discussion of the budget process—or at least part of it. In one township, this process merged the practice of consultative democratic meetings with the local people’s congress. These reforms, widely reported on in the Chinese press endorsed at high levels, are still quite limited, but they suggest an effort to make the budgetary process both more transparent and subject to legislative review by expanding the role of local legislative bodies.