Home > 1.Legal Review, 2.Methodology > What factors in the politico-administrative structure influence Chinese agencies? compliance with disclosure laws?

What factors in the politico-administrative structure influence Chinese agencies? compliance with disclosure laws?

Given that broad latitude for interpretation is built in the transparency legislations, and that judicial remedy system has not formulated effective legal standards to guide and supervise the latitude, the scope of accessible information is virtually determined by the administrators literally bound by the provisions. As a consequence of the long-standing culture of government secrecy, government agencies treat the information held by them as generally secret and exceptionally accessible to the citizenry, which implies that the information can only be disclosed when the law or regulation explicitly so authorizes and should be sealed when the legal norms keep silence on any disclosure .

This phenomenon could be explained, to some extent, by classical scholarship about bureaucracy. Sociologist Max Webber warned that ?[e]very bureaucracy seeks to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret? (Webber 1946). Political scientist Altshuler noted that ?people in government fear nothing than newsworthy failure? (Altshuler 1997). Administrative scientists have pointed out that internal administrative rules and practices have more influence on staffs of the authority than legal norms do (Feldman 2003).

Therefore, in order to better understand administrators? behaviours concerning information disclosure, attention should be paid to the internal transparency-related policies in the administrative system, and the mechanism of the system that determines the incentives of its staffs.

However, in view of China?s one-party-ruling regime, the administrative organization functions under the omnipresent control of Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, the focus of study should be the ?institution? of politico-administrative system that ?have developed sufficient regularity and perceived importance to shape the behaviours of their members? (Lieberthal 2004). In other words, the search for factors affecting OGI rule enforcement entails the review of the internal policies and functioning of the party-led bureaucracy.

For example, the determination of highest leaders in CPC and central government could explain the wide spread of ?open administrative affairs (OAA)? campaign and its correlation with the rise of ?open government information (OGI)? legislation tide, especially the major force supporting it [1]. And the persistence of their policy stand will substantially affect the intensity of OGI legislation enforcement.

Besides, the problem of segmentation, a unique character of China?s bureaucratic system, will also affect the attitude of agencies with different competence. There are barriers between the governance of departments and regions. Given the vast territory and diverse interest among regions, policies that for the goodness of whole state are carried out and supervised by authorities directly under the State Council and not those subordinated to local governments. The administration seeking to regulate infractions will encounter obstacles from local administration when the behaviour regulated is deemed to profitable to local economic. The typical case is environmental regulation. It helps to explain why environmental protection authorities are more willing to disclose information that are otherwise embarrassing to governments ? it hope to diminish the obstacles created by local government to the policy enforcement of the departmental authority.

To conceptualize the conditions for the growth of public law rights in China, professor Xia Yong has built up an theoretical model (Xia 2004). The model tackles the affecting elements on the part of public power, which can serve as a base for the discussion of this part . And the factors will be studied from two perspectives:

Structural perspective
? Weak public record system
? Ideological concern and central control of information flow
? Interweave of secrecy agency and other administrative agencies

Micro behavioural perspective
? Instrumentalist position in promoting government openness
? Incentive and strategy of administrators
? Incentive and strategy of judges


Webber, M. (1946). Essays in Sociology. New York, Oxford University Press

Altshuler, A. A. (1997). Bureaucratic Innovation, Democratic Accountability, and Political Incentives. Innovation in American government: challenges, opportunities, and dilemmas. A. A. Altshuler and R. D. Behn. Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press: 39

Feldman, D. (2003). The limits of law: can laws regulate public administration? Handbook of public administration B. G. Peters and J. Pierre. London; Thousand Oaks, Calif. , Sage Publications

Lieberthal, K. (2004). Governing China : from revolution through reform. New York, W. W. Norton

[1] In March 2005, the Communist Party of China and the State Council jointly issued an important document that established as national policy the principle that all information relating to administration and public services should be disclosed unless exempted as a state secret, commercial secret, or private information. This policy document further endorsed continued local experimentation with local legislation and called for the drafting of national regulations on open government information to ?legalize? open information systems by creating enforceable rights and obligations.

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