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350 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Overall, Financial Reform in China is recommended to anyone interested in changes in the financial system of a country whose economic potential should not be taken lighüy. David C. Yang University of Hawai'i at Mänoa David C. Yang is a professor ofaccounting in the College ofBusiness Administration specializing in international accounting. Marc Blecher and Vivienne Shue. Tethered Deer: Government and Economy in a Chinese County. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. xvi, 267 pp. Hardcover $39.50, isbn 0-8047-2565-9. This jointly authored monograph offers a window onto the exceedingly varied activities of county government during the recent period of economic reform in the People's Republic of China. Blecher and Shue's approach is somewhat ethnographic , focused on a single rural county in Hebei. The data derive from the their extensive and detailed briefings with county officials and operatives concerning a broad range of subjects—the complexities of county finances, intersecting bureaucratic structures and obligations, industrial organization and management, labor force segmentation, and so form. Given the authors' focus on the functioning of county government, their method passes muster as a kind ofparticipant observation. Blecher and Shue's account of the vitality of this rural Hebei community, the dynamism ofits economic development, and the success of its county government in responding to new local needs deriving from the economic reforms cannot help but call to my mind the somewhat similar experience ofDongyang County, Zhejiang Province, where I carried out a study ofrural enterprises roughly contemporaneous with theirs. Blecher and Shue's description of county government workings has about it die ring of genuine familiarity. Especially impressive , ifless familiar, was die level of cooperation Blecher and Shue were afforded by their local hosts, and the quality of the data they were able to gather as y mversity a resuit gy contrast; mylocal hosts in Dongyang were not nearly as gracious and forthcoming in providing materials and resources, despite Dongyang's own record of extremely successful economic performance. ofHawai'i Press Reviews 351 The complexities in Blecher and Shue's analysis can be a bit overwhelming, and I would hesitate to assign this book to an undergraduate audience on that account . The discussion ofthe "triple stranded" revenue pathways ofcounty finance (pp. 45 ff.), for example, is a rather tough slog. But the authors do in the end succeed in making sense ofthe complexities, and the patience ofthe specialist reader is rewarded. Blecher and Shue document the "welcome expansion" ofcommercial activity that has enlivened the county's overall local economic picture, allowing great strides to be made in satisfying local consumer demand (p. 149). The government role in the construction of a new, modernized marketplace in the county town is described in great detail. The aspirations expressed for the new market as part of a wider urban development scheme, conceived to help solve public problems of traffic control, urban overcrowding, and commercial regulation (p. 140), were, in the end, fulfilled beyond its planners' wildest expectations. The authors are careful to note the many continuities in county government practice with the Mao period, which they were privileged to have caught the tail end ofwhen visiting the county in the late 1970s, but they also see the county government's role as changing. As the local economy has expanded under the economic reforms, the command structure in which the county government is embedded has come to command a smaller proportion ofoverall resources, and regulatory functions in such areas as urban planning, environmental protection, water conservation, and industrial development have come to replace command functions in the county government's day-to-day work (p. 32). Examples of successful government intervention in each of these areas are highlighted, and county government is characterized as responding flexibly in its roles as mediator in intra-county disputes, and advocate in inter-county disputes (p. 157). I was tantalized but ultimately unsatisfied with the attention given to the collective and private industrial sectors of the county, which are described in rather superficial fashion. Perhaps it is my own interest in the subject that prejudices me in this regard, but after stating that "by 1985...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 350-352
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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