Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism

‘Beijing is far away’

Original Lecture: “‘Beijing is far away’: The Provinces in China,” Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 25 October 2010.


This presentation examines the political and administrative system of China from the point of view of the provinces. Contrary to common perception and despite the highly authoritarian nature of China’s political system, actual authority is in most instances fragmented. Great diversities have always existed among Chinese provinces and the reach of central government has had its limitations. The constant struggle between central authority and local governments has been a dominant feature of governance in China right from its unification under the Qin dynasty to the present day. Imperial governments sought to maintain tight control of provincial appointments and revenues, and set strict limits to the scope of provinces for independent action, while the latter, on the other hand, sought sufficient autonomy to ensure effective local government. Even the Communist regime in China with all its centralizing tendencies has had to contend with this dynamic of governance – the struggle for provincial autonomy.


Studying centre-province and inter-province relationships in China from the perspective of the provinces, provides a new framework for analyzing political and economic developments in China. Altogether four distinct phenomena are examined:

– localism – centre-province competition

– provincialism – inter-province competition

– regionalism – inter-province cooperation

– transnationalism – province-foreign country linkages

A fifth issue might also be considered namely, intra-provincial competition and/or the rise of China’s cities

Examples are also given from India to help better understand these dynamics in India.


Download the full presentation: JabinJacob-2010Oct25-JNU-Beijing is far away