Social Management or Social Governance: a Review of Party and Government Discourse and why it Matters in Understanding Chinese Politics

  • Holly SnapeEmail author
Review Essay


The political report given by Xi Jinping at the 19th National Party Congress in late 2017 introduced the concept of “a social governance model based on co-construction, co-governance, and co-sharing.” This essay explores the use and interpretations of official discourse on governing society since the late 1980s to understand what is new about this concept. I examine key central documents and scholars’ interpretations of their language in order to analyse the changes in the Party’s stated thinking on governance, and to demonstrate the importance of central document analysis in understanding Chinese politics. I find that the term social governance does not have one clear, static meaning and that to argue otherwise would be misleading. Rather than developing in a linear way, as is often assumed, the concepts used in official discourse are found to be ambiguous and at times contradictory. This plays two important roles. It creates space for scholars to use official discourse as a channel for political participation, while at the same time facilitating the use of official language as technique for governing its users.


Social governance Chinese politics Discourse Communist Party of China 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Postdoctoral Fellow, School of GovernmentPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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