The Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration was formally established in 2010 after a workshop held in Brisbane in association with the 2009 National Conference of the Institute of Public Administration (IPAA). Apart from IPAA, ANZSOG, ANU and Griffith University were the original Australian supporters (together with Treasury and DFAT), along with Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, City University in Hong Kong and the National Taiwan University in Taipei. The current principals of the Dialogue are:
Dialogue workshops have been held every year since 2011 at a range of universities across Greater China and at ANU, on public administration issues of shared interest. Workshop themes have been:
The series has allowed increasingly deep understanding of practice in each jurisdictions as well as shared exploration of current issues and challenges. Each workshop has involved scholars from universities across Greater China and Australia, and a selection of practitioners from the different jurisdictions. Amongst the Australian practitioners have been officials from a range of Australian departments and authorities (including PM&C, Treasury, Health Finance, Infrastructure, APSC and ATO), Victoria and NSW and local governments in Victoria and Queensland.
Many presentations at Dialogue workshops have subsequently led to publications in various journals and books, some in symposia that provide comparisons of practice across jurisdictions as well as analysis of particular country developments.
This website aims to provide a one-stop-shop allowing access both to all published papers and to a selection of previously unpublished papers that contain information and analysis of continuing relevance to Australian and Chinese scholars and practitioners. The website contains papers from the workshops up to and including 2016. Papers from 2017 and 2018 will be added when available.
Special Issue: Citizen’s engagement in Australia and China (The Australian Journal of Public Administration, Volume 71, Issue 2, June 2012:
This journal issue was published following the first Greater China Australia Dialogue workshop, held at Sun Yat-sen University in 2011 on the topic of ‘Putting Citizens at the Centre: Making Government More Responsive’. This topic was chosen in response to growing international interest in citizen-focused public services, acknowledging that this concept has different meanings in different concepts. The editors offer an introduction of the topic before giving an overview of the articles included in the issue:
Special Issue: Inter-Governmental Relations in China and Australia (Australian Journal of Public Administration, Volume 72, Issue 2, September 2013)
This journal issue was published following the second Greater China Australia Dialogue workshop, held in 2012, exploring current practices and challenges in allowing a degree of local autonomy within national public policy frameworks in China, Taiwan and Australia. Arrangements across the three countries are variable and often significant, and this issue aims to capture details relating to each context. The editors offer an introduction of the topic before giving an overview of the articles included in the issue:
Overview: 2013 Dialogue Workshop: Public Sector Human Resources Management
2013 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration Workshop: Public Sector Human Resources Management
The 2013 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop held at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou focused on public sector human resources management. Approaches towards HRM in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Australia are very different, and even measuring the size of the public sector workforce for the purposes of comparisons proved to be a challenge. This document provides an overview of background papers and articles relating to the Dialogue workshop, studying each of the three jurisdiction.
Paper: The APS and the Chinese Civil Service
The APS and the Chinese Civil Service
This research serves as a background paper to the 2013 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop, and describes the Chinese Civil Service in terms of its administrative tradition and current institutional arrangements. Providing an overview of the principles of the Chinese civil service, Dr Derek Drinkwater argues that this knowledge is crucial for APS employees to proceed with security and trade policy debates in Australia’s relations with China. The paper argues that knowledge of two key elements of Chinese polity is necessary to comprehensively understand China as a nation and its civil service: 1) the administrative tradition which shapes Chinese public administration; and 2) the structure of China’s civil service and the categories and responsibilities of its civil servants.
Paper: The Concept of ‘Merit’ in Australia, China and Taiwan
The Concept of ‘Merit’ in Australia, China and Taiwan
Professors Andrew Podger and Hon Chan provide a description of approaches to ‘merit’ in Australia, China and Taiwan. A detailed overview of the merit principle in Australia is given, with reference to key debates around the role of women, treatment of ex-servicemen, importance of graduate recruitment, equal employment opportunity, and staff perceptions of fairness and the application of merit in employment decisions. Podger and Chan acknowledge that merit is applied differently in China and Taiwan, and that all three jurisdictions have differing definitions of merit.
Paper: Crowding Out Meritocracy? – Cultural Constraints in Chinese Public Human Resources Management
Crowding Out Meritocracy? – Cultural Constraints in Chinese Public Human Resources Management
This paper discusses compromises to the development of a meritocracy-based civil service system in China, but seeks especially to analyse the underlying cultural forces to explain pervasive norm violations, especially at local levels. Dr Zhibin Zhang argues that cultural explanations have been under-examined. This paper uses 14 case studies to demonstrate that Chinese civil service institutions, derived from a culture of hierarchical collectivism, failed to address the cultural constraints over implementation of the meritocracy principle.
Paper: Public Employees' Perceived Promotion Channels in Local China: Merit-based or Guanxi-oriented?
Public Employees’ Perceived Promotion Channels in Local China: Merit-based or Guanxi-oriented?
Liang Ma, Huangfeng Tang and Bo Yan examine perceptions of the roles played by merit and guanxi (personal ties) in promotions through the Chinese Civil Service. It outlines the characteristics and complexities of cadre personnel management, and emphasises the prevalence of guanxi in Chinese society that cannot be escaped by the civil service. The paper adopts a configurational approach to classify perceptions of reasons for promotion into four groups: merit-based, guanxi-oriented, ambidextrous (both) and fatalistic (neither) and how groups of employees perceive and assess the fairness of promotion in this light.
Paper: Party Management of Talent: Building a Party-led, Merit-based Talent Market in China
Party Management of Talent: Building a Party-led, Merit-based Talent Market in China
Lijun Chen et al examine the establishment of a party-led merit-based talent management system to deal with a talent deficit in China during the reform-era. The article then assesses the effectiveness of these measures and national and local levels. The article demonstrates that merit principles have been given increasing priority over three decades to revamp the traditional cadre personnel management system without compromising political boundaries or the one-party state system of pots-Mao China. Its study attempts to address key questions:
Paper: Exam-centred Meritocracy in Taiwan: Hiring by Merit or Examination?
Exam-centred Meritocracy in Taiwan: Hiring by Merit or Examination?
Bennis Wai Yip So examines the role of the civil service entrance examination (CSEE) as the primary measure of merit in recruitment to the Taiwanese civil service. The article assesses ‘hiring by examination’ against definitions of merit, and demonstrates that while the examinations are perceived as essential to procedural fairness – accessible to all and prioritised by score – ‘fitness to do the job’ is compromised by the removal of public managers from recruitment. The paper outlines the history of examinations in Taiwan and Asia more broadly, and explains its continued confidence in the system while other nations diverged to new merit principles.
Paper: The Leader's Role in Learning and Development
The Leader’s Role in Learning and Development
Leanne Ansell-McBride outlines leadership development programs in the Victorian public service, as led by the Victoria Leadership Development Centre (VLDC). The article presents findings as to best practice in leadership development, identifying five practices that have that had the greatest impact on the success of leadership development efforts. Ansell-McBride also explores the role of leaders in assessing and developing executive leadership capability, what the ‘70/20/10 rule of development’ looks like in practice, and how to measure and evaluate leadership success based on the outcomes the VLDC program.
Paper: Development of the Senior Executive Service in Australia
Development of the Senior Executive Service in Australia
John Halligan gives a historical overview of the Senior Executive Service (SES) in Australia, comparing it to international (mostly Anglophone) counterparts. This article argues that public service leadership is a product of its administrative culture and context, and examines the Australian SES through key eras including managerialism, new public management and new public governance. Halligan analyses both the creation and development of the senior public service, and addresses leadership development within the service up until the establishment of The Strategic Centre for Leadership, Learning and Development in 2010. Halligan’s analysis finds that the early SES was relatively successful compared to international counterparts, but that service and leadership objectives are dependent on their context, with original objectives unevenly realized over time.
Paper: Capability Reviews of Australian Government Departments 2010-2013
Capability Reviews of Australian Government Departments 2010-2013
This article describes and assesses the development of systematic capability reviews of individual departments of the Australian Public Service, as at the time of writing. Jeff Harmer and Andrew Podger offer an overview of review components, including its key definitions, questions and methodologies, and also briefly summarise findings as at October 2013. The paper then comments on the methodology and process of the review, pointing out certain strengths and inconsistencies, though acknowledging that the review is still underway.
Paper: Individual, Team and Organizational Development in the Victorian Public Service
Individual, Team and Organizational Development in the Victorian Public Service
Geraldine Kennett discusses training and development models in relation to organizational capability and team development, and not just individual development. The Victorian Public Service (VPS) is used as a case study, analysing data across six divisions in three VPS departments, and determines preferred training and development approaches according to certain organisational and individual needs. Kennett uses this data to inform employers of the most suitable training and development strategies most appropriate to their varying organisational settings.
Paper: Performance management of teachers
Performance management of teachers
Greg Murtough and Mike Woods respond to the 2012 Productivity Commission analysis of performance management in Australian schools, which found that feedback and support, as well as disciplinary action and dismissal, were lacking in teacher performance management. Part of the Commission’s recommendations included improving the quality of teacher performance management, and this paper explores survey findings of the various components and areas of concern as raised by interested parties. The paper argues that school principals need to be given more authority to address under-performance, and that performance bonuses are unlikely to lead to meaningful teacher performance improvement in the foreseeable future.
Paper: Australian Experience with HRM Devolution
Australian Experience with HRM Devolution
Andrew Podger explores HRM Devolution in Australia, one of the key elements of the New Public Management movement of the 1980s and 1990s, as a means for improving performance. The article gives an overview of the history of devolution in the Australian public services, and discusses its impact on various aspects human resources management. The article argues that while devolution has increased flexibility for agency heads on employment matters, other problems surrounding the devolution of pay and classifications have arisen and proven difficult to resolve. These problems include constrained mobility within the public service, administrative overload and feelings of unfairness amongst employees with different pay conditions for the same work. The article tracks these benefits and problems since the introduction of NPM in Australia, through the 1980s-90s and up to 2013.
Paper: Pay, recognition, trust and employee outcomes in the Australian Public Service: direct and indirect effects
Pay, recognition, trust and employee outcomes in the Australian Public Service: direct and indirect effects
Jeannette Taylor analyses responses from the Australian Public Service Commission’s 2010 State of the Service Employment Survey to determine the effectiveness of financial and non-financial rewards to raise organizational commitment and reduce turnover intention. Taylor hypothesizes that organizational commitment is based on reciprocity, and that employees are likely to commit in exchange for their interests being looked after by the organization. Taylor examines this hypothesis against both pay and recognition, finding positive correlation between each and organizational commitment, and increasing employee trust in the performance management system. Taylor discusses the implications of her findings for public human resources managers, not only in increasing job satisfaction but in meeting employee perceptions of fairness and building organisational trust.
Paper: Assessing Agency-Level Performance Evaluation Reform in China: Can It Truly Serve as a Management Innovation?
Assessing Agency-Level Performance Evaluation Reform in China: Can It Truly Serve as a Management Innovation?
Lin Ye and Xing Ni fill a gap in performance management studies to focus on agency-level reforms in China. In this article, they analyse a new performance management regime established by the Hainan Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DoFHP) and assess its success. They find that performance goals can be achieved by strengthening the linkage between individual and organizational performance, enhancing organizational capacity of performance evaluation, and improving functional control by introducing advanced evaluation measures. For DoFHP, ample financial resources aided the development of a sophisticated performance management system, with experts assisting (from the World Bank) in improving performance evaluation and managerial efficiency. The paper assesses the system against the criteria of validity, legitimacy, credibility, functionality and accessibility, and finds positive outcomes for performance management, though with room for improvement.
Paper: Policy Expectations Moderates the Relationship Between Merit Pay Policy Effectiveness and Public Service Motivation
Policy Expectations Moderates the Relationship Between Merit Pay Policy Effectiveness and Public Service Motivation
Fanrong Meng and Jiannan Wu explored the relationship between public service motivation (PSM) and perceived merit pay policy effectiveness among public sector employees in China, and the mediating role of policy expectancy, surveying 581 compulsory school teachers in Guangdong and Shaanxi Provinces. Previous data of merit pay policy for teachers in western countries has led some to question the actual benefits of performance pay programs, and this article tests this in the Chinese context. Meng and Wu test whether PSM is ‘crowded out’ by the use of extrinsic rewards such as merit pay, and the possible impact of expectations about the likely effectiveness merit pay. Their study demonstrates a U-shaped relationship between the perceived effectiveness of merit pay policy and PSM, and that these expectations moderate the relationship.
Overview: 2014 Dialogue Workshop: Decentralisation
2014 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop: Maximising the Benefits of Decentralisation
The 2014 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop held at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou focused on the theme of ‘Maximising the Benefits of Decentralisation’. Decentralisation often leads to increased responsiveness to local needs and economic and social benefits, but can also open the door to corruption and mismanagement. The workshop discussed the capabilities required and developed to enhance the effectiveness of decentralization, and discussed and compared developments in Australia, The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. This paper offers an overview of research contributing to and stemming from this discussion.
Paper: Decentralisation of Public Administration: an introductory overview
Decentralisation of Public Administration: an introductory overview
This article serves as a background paper to the 2014 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop, providing a theoretical background to decentralization. Mike Woods and John Wanna distinguish between ‘devolution’ and ‘decentralisation’ and describe those factors that determine how a country may distribute powers, both in unitary states and federations. The paper discusses the principles sometimes used to support devolution or decentralization – subsidiarity, differentiation and experimentation, and the adequacy of local capability – and how these principles are affected by the powers and functions involved. Woods and Wanna summarise these principles and theories with respect to the Australian and Chinese contexts and then identify key areas for discussion to determine how the benefits of decentralization may be maximized for each country.
Paper: Rediscovering Intergovernmental Relations at the Local Level: The Devolution to Township Governments in Zhejiang Province
Rediscovering Intergovernmental Relations at the Local Level: The Devolution to Township Governments in Zhejiang Province
Jianxing Yu, Lin Li and Yongdong Shen add to existing discourse that focuses and vertical relations between the central government and provincial governments of China by exploring the less-researched decentralization reform to townships. In this article, they describe this reform in Zhejiang province, now a model for the rest of the PRC. They provide an overview of the challenges of devolution to township governments, including a brief historical overview of reforms since 1978. In particular, the authors acknowledge challenges surrounding capability and ensuring accountability. They describe the four rounds of reform for the devolution of administrative power from county-level to township governments in Zhejiang and the remarkable gains the province has reaped as a result, but also acknowledge that there is some way to go before townships can confidently exercise their flexibilities within clear policy frameworks.
Presentation: The Civil Service System in Taiwan
The Civil Service System in Taiwan (slides)
In a presentation to the 2014 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop, ‘Maximising the Benefits of Decentralisation’, Tsai-tsu Su presented these slides on the Taiwanese Civil Service system. She gives a statistical overview of the civil service workforce and describes a decline in bureaucratic capacity, before elaborating on various challenges facing Taiwanese public administration and further efforts to decentralise.
Paper: Experimentalist Governance with Interactive Central-Local Relations: Making New Pension Policies in China
Experimentalist Governance with Interactive Central-Local Relations: Making New Pension Policies in China
Xufeng Zhu and Hui Zhao discuss China’s application of ‘experimentalist governance’ to build national policies by pilot testing policies at the local level. The authors present a theoretical framework to experimental governance and describe China’s approach through case studies on four pension policies. National policies may diversely impact local regions, and thus national policies are tested and evaluated at the local level before being used to inform the development of a national approach. The central government relies on strong interaction with local governments to enact successful national policies by assessing the success of local experiments, as seen in the pensions case. As such, the central government is able to learn from local experiments, develop national programs and synthesize appropriate local policy instruments, and the authors demonstrate the potential benefits of the experimental governance approach both in China and internationally.
Paper: Area-based competition and awards as a motivation tool for public service provision: The experience of Xining, China
Area-based competition and awards as a motivation tool for public service provision: The experience of Xining, China
Bingqin Li examines the role of area-based competitions (ABCs) as motivators for good public service provision. Li describes the practice of Chinese cities competing to implement national policies where local motivation is lacking, and examines positive (reward) and negative (consequence) incentives used in competitions. Public hygiene is one such policy area lacking in local motivation, while the central government is invested in its improvement. Hygienic City was competition introduced for local governments to meet environmental standards, service sector hygiene and bug control, and Li discusses its effectiveness in the city of Xining, Qinghai Province. Li’s research demonstrates that competition indeed motivated public officials and individuals and private businesses to act, where promotions, local pride, and financial coverage were positive incentives for change. Li also identified costs to competition in Xining and more broadly, in perverse incentives, short-sighted responses, and limited capacity for poor places to respond to targets. This research has broader implications as area-based competitions occur internationally, and are used in China more frequently to motivate city officials to increase public participation, inter-sectoral cooperation, and inter-regional learning.
Paper: In the Twilight Zone of Collaborative Disaster Prevention? The Experience of Flood Control in Different Levels of Government in Taiwan
Ming-feng Kuo and Chun-yuan Wang examines the trend of decentralization in Taiwan where there are still ‘Twilight Zones’ in which central and local government goals and responsibilities conflict, particularly in cases where collaboration is required between the two levels. The authors discuss flood control in Taiwan as an example of this Twilight Zone. After describing the factors of decentralization in general and in flood control, they describe the challenges that may create Twilight Zones in Taiwan and argue that collaborative governance is the key to overcoming ineffective decentralization. Central government needs to provide the resources that can build local government capacity; trust-building across political and local differences helps shape legitimacy of governance and generate commitment; information sharing ensures collective interaction; and integrative, cross-boundary governance fosters communication and coordination both vertically and horizontally between central and local government. The authors acknowledge the increasing importance of decentralization and describe how conflicts of power and responsibility can be mitigated by boosting the administrative and financial capabilities of local government, and the importance of effective collaborative governance where conflict occurs.
Paper: Partnership between Government and the Third Sector at a Subnational Level: The experience of an Australian subnational government
Partnership between Government and the Third Sector at a Subnational Level: The experience of an Australian subnational government
David Gilchrist summarises his findings from a series of reviews commissioned by the Western Australian Government to evaluate the impact of its policy of Delivering Community Services in Partnership (DCSP). Governments (in Australia and internationally) use the not-for-profit (NFP) sector to deliver much of their social policy, and there is constant tension in the relationship between governments and NFPs. Nevertheless, in Australia there is a desire to improve these relationships for the benefit of the community. The DCSP Policy was established out of this desire, and Gilchrist here describes his evaluations in 2012-14. Amongst the findings is that progress was being made to enhance the capability of non-government organisations to deliver public services, but that further effort was needed; there is a need for ongoing and increased partnership between government and the NFP sector; steps were being taken towards longer-term contract to increase confidence, but that administrative burden remained a problem, with new challenges likely to emerge over time, and that there was still a need for greater consistency across government departments.
Paper: Local Government and NGOs in China: Performance-Based Collaboration
Local Government and NGOs in China: Performance-Based Collaboration
Yongdong Shen and Jianxing Yu examine the increasing practice by local governments in China to collaborate with NGOs in China’s emerging civil society. This increase has puzzled many observers, due partly to expectations that a growing civil society might oppose the state. Others see this increase as evidence that the state can exercise its strength by means of a strategy of managing or co-opting NGOs. The authors here believe that state-NGO relations occur primarily at the local level, and argue that performance-based decentralization motivates collaboration and determines how local governments and NGOs cooperate. The article gives an overview of the Chinese approach to NGOs and their regulation, and then presents two case studies drawn from Ningbo city and Shanghai city, relating to the provision of home-based care services for the elderly, and the second to an association between an indoor environment products NGO and the government to meet demand for air purification products that would support the modern service and manufacturing industries. The article finds that there is a future for government-NGO cooperation, but that success is dependent upon improved autonomy for NGOs and upon local governments institutionalizing arrangements through more systemic contracting and clarification of respective responsibilities.
Book: Value for Money: Budget and financial management reform in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Australia
This book presents a selection of papers developed from the 2015 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration, held at the National Taiwan University in 2015, with the theme ‘Value for Money’. While acknowledging that all governments face resource challenges requiring budgetary management processes, the chapters in this book describe budgeting and financial management in three very different jurisdictions: Australia, China and Taiwan. The editors offer an introduction of the topic before giving a brief overview of each chapter:
Overview: 2016 Dialogue Workshop on Improving Policy Decision-making
2016 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop: Improving Public Policy Decision-Making
The 2016 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop held at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou focused on the theme of ‘Improving Public Policy Decision-Making’. This document provides an overview of research presented at the workshop on this theme and the sub-themes explored, including:
Paper: Overview of Australian decision-making processes and challenges
Overview of Australian decision-making processes and challenges
John Wanna and Mike Woods give an overview of Australia’s ‘inventive’ public policy. After providing a brief history of public policy-making in Australia – at the national and sub-national levels – they describe the challenges to decision-making today, the channels of policy analysis and formulation, the extensive use and the types of policy reviews in the Australian public policy landscape, and the current state of evidence-based policy. The authors discuss what is particular to the Australian policy environment, and makes some comparisons to China. They conclude by summarizing eight key reasons behind the struggle to embrace evidence-based policy in Australia.
Paper: Decision Making and the Australian Cabinet System
Decision Making and the Australian Cabinet System
Bruce Taloni describes the roles and functions of the cabinet in the Australian national government, writing in 2016 when he was the head of the Cabinet Office in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). After outlining the various rules and fundamental components of Cabinet, he goes on to describe the Cabinet process that, if followed, ideally leads to successful policy implementation and beneficial policy outcomes. Taloni then outlines current and emerging challenges for cabinet, transparency in the Australian system for the monitoring of and commentary on Government and its policies, and finally the role of the Cabinet Division in PM&C. Information and statistics provided are relevant to the time of presentation, in October 2016.
Paper: The Changing Demands on Australia’s Health Policymakers: A Case Study on Intergovernmental Relations in Health over 40 years
The Changing Demands on Australia’s Health Policymakers: A Case Study on Intergovernmental Relations in Health over 40 years
Dr Anne-Marie Boxall provides a detailed overview of the complexities of decision-making in health policy in Australia, particularly in the shared responsibilities between national and state/territory governments. She provides an overview of challenges to healthcare funding, particularly within Australia’s significant vertical fiscal imbalance. After providing a brief historical overview of healthcare agreements from the 1970s onwards, Boxall describes the development of policy for intergovernmental agreements, the political factors affecting agreement negotiations, the centralization of negotiations and the challenge of improving health policymaking. The article concludes by referencing an OECD publication outlining the unique challenges facing health policymakers, including that:
Boxall also includes possible strategies to help policymakers work together in this complex, intergovernmental system.
Presentation: New Approaches to Local Government Innovations in the Xi era
New Approaches to Local Government Innovations in the Xi era
In a presentation to the 2016 Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration workshop, ‘Improving Public Policy Decision-Making’, Dr. Jianxing Yu describes new phenomena in local government innovations, here labelled ‘seeking proposal approved’. Neither ‘pilot’ projects (initiated by upper-level governments to be tested at the local level) nor ‘initiative exploration’ (local governments taking initiative to employ new policy instruments or objectives) can describe this new phenomena, emerging under President Xi. Instead, local governments draft innovative programs, and seek formal approval from higher levels, either implementing policy as a pilot, or dropping the program altogether.
Paper: Inter-regional diffusion of policy innovation in China: A comparative case study
Xufeng Zhu discusses the inter-regional diffusion of policy innovation in China, which differs from federal models where local governments often implement their own innovative policies independently. In China, vertical and horizontal relations subject local governments to intervention from the central government and/or competition from other local governments in policy innovation. Zhu suggests four models exist based on the extent of vertical and horizontal influences: ‘enlightenment’, ‘championship’, ‘designation’ and ‘recognition’. Zhu describes the degree of central government involvement or local inter-regional competition in each to demonstrate how innovative policies or diffused across China, and uses examples of each model: the participatory budget reform in Wenling City, the administrative licensing system reform in Nankai District, the urban pension pilot schemes for the full funding of the individual account, and the low-carbon pilot scheme.
Paper: Can co-production be state-led? Policy pilots in four Chinese cities
Can co-production be state-led? Policy pilots in four Chinese cities
Bingqin Li and her colleagues discuss experiments in co-production in China, using four cities as case studies: Guiyang, Chengdu, Xiamen (Haicang District) and Taicang. The authors describe co-production and how it is has taken form in China, where it is actively encouraged by the central government to improve ‘self-governance’ at the local level. While grassroots co-production is generally facilitated by the central government, and less so the initiative of community members, the authors argue that this top-down approach has its merits, namely that the central government is well-placed to ignite and sustain co-production, but that there is still some way to go. The authors discuss the various challenges to co-production, including the tension between vertical governance and the horizontal processes required to involve more stakeholders. They also outline the beginnings, activities, promotion, implementation, financing, and social outcomes of co-production in each city. They conclude by describing the conditions required for grassroots co-production through community engagement and how government can initiate co-production.