发布日期:2017-05-04 16:10:00

International Public Management Journal











ABSTRACT: Political scientists and economists argue that citizens decide whether or not to comply by weighing the benefits of compliance against possible costs from an instrumental perspective, while legal scholars focus on the procedures by which policy outcomes are generated from a procedural perspective, and sociologists emphasize peoples motives to reciprocate with other community members from a collective perspective. However, we still dont know how these three perspectives can predict citizens noncompliance. Concentrating on the experience from mainland China, this work aims to develop a general noncompliance theory by integrating these approaches to explore why households are noncompliant with policies for resettlement compensation provided by local authorities in city regeneration projects. Based on a survey from a minority community in Xian and follow-up interviews, households with larger-sized houses, lower trust in local authority, and higher reliance on other community members are found to be more noncompliant with the compensation, which suggests that these three perspectives work together to predict citizens noncompliance. Implications for public accountability research in China are also discussed.


Governments have to be sensitive to the needs and thoughts of citizens; otherwise, when initiatives that rely on public interest and cooperation are introduced, noncompliance might emerge, leading to ineffective policy implementation or damage to the legitimacy of the government. Though we have accumulated some knowledge on compliance or noncompliance in some policy domains (e.g., environmental regulation, political resistance, and tax collection) (Woliver 1996; Andreoni, Erard, and Fernstein 1998; Pickett 2001; Potoski and Prakash 2005), the state of the art is fragmented among the disciplines of politics, economics, sociology, and law, leaving research gaps in their synthesis. In addition, determinants of noncompliance have been primarily tested in the context of Western developed countries, needing further examination in typical policy domains of developing countries. Moreover, research on compliance or noncompliance in public administration has seldom kept up with its neighboring disciplines, and the current limited research mainly focuses on firms’ compliance with environmental regulation

(DeHart-Davis and Bozeman 2001; May and Wood 2003; Yee, Tang, and Lo 2016; Liu et al. 2015) and local governments’ compliance with central laws (Switzer 2001; Hess, Hanmer, and Nickerson 2016), both of which fail to explore the interactive relationship between governments and citizens in general. For the topic of citizen’s compliance with the government, only a handful of articles have been found (Lee 2003; Im et al. 2014), but they have asserted that generalized political trust accounts for citizen’s compliance mainly by using subjective measures, and also failed to refer to specific policy domains. Development-induced displacement (DID) is an important policy area vulnerable to social unrest, especially in many developing countries, with the compensation for displaced households lying at the center of such controversies (Vandergeest 2003; De Wet 2005; Doutriaux, Geisle, and Shively 2008). A significant amount of scholarly attention has been devoted to the issue of household resistance to development projects over the past decade (Dwivedi 1999; 2002), and we have accumulated knowledge about the rhetorical and substantive goals of China’s urban renewal projects (Lü 1997), their impetus and structures (Wu 2001; He and Wu 2005), the politics of land expropriation (Zhang and Fang

2003), legal frameworks (Phan 2005; Shih 2010), administrative capacity (Yep and Fong 2009), and characteristics of homeowners’ resistance (Cai 2005). Some researchers have also looked into factors underlying protests by land occupiers and homeowners, most of them concluding that administrative arrangements and economic benefits mainly account for households’responses, based upon case studies (Guo 2001; Li, Waley, and Rees 2001; Wang and Wall 2007). However, there is no systematical evidence based on empirical studies about why households are noncompliant in the policy domain of DID. Experts in various disciplines have nonetheless provided several clues to account for public noncompliance. Political scientists and economists assert that citizens weigh the benefits of compliance against possible costs from an instrumental perspective (Olson 1965; Finkel, Muller, and Seligson 1989). Thus, noncompliance can stem from citizens evaluations that the authority is incompetent and causing undesirable outcomes because

the benefits of compliance are low and the likely cost of noncompliance is also low. Legal

scholars focus on the procedures by which policy outcomes are generated from a procedural perspective (Blader and Tyler 2003). They contend that public perceptions of the procedures shape public behaviors in terms of whether to cooperate with the authorities (Tyler 2001; Tyler, Schulhofer, and Hup 2010); they discard the deterrence-based model that focuses upon sanctions and punishment by authorities (Tyler 2009a). Sociologists emphasize people’s motives to reciprocate with other community members from a collective perspective, which means that social ties between individuals within the same community are crucial in shaping and altering public compliance with public policy (Woliver 1996; Pickett 2001). However, these three perspectives have been probed in a fragmented and isolated way, and need to be examined together to explore why the public may be compliant or noncompliant. The issue of development-induced resettlement has become a source of significant tension and widespread noncompliance in China. Relying on both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (interviews) methods from a study of a Chinese local community whose households were required to resettle to facilitate a city regeneration project, this work provides some preliminary but solid evidence that households’ instrumental losses procedural concerns, and collective reasoning all exert notable influence on compliance or noncompliance. The contributions are as follows. First, we aim to establish a more general noncompliance theory for the public administration discipline by integrating the three perspectives advocated by political scientists and economists, legal scholars,

and sociologists. Second, we provide empirical evidence of why households are often noncompliant with compensation arrangements in the context of China s developing economy. Third, we try to extend public management and policy research by concentrating on households’ noncompliance from the angle of citizens rather than policy decision makers and implementers in the policy domain of development-induced resettlement, which is typical in developing countries. Fourth, we also aim to contribute to understanding about the dynamics in informal accountability relationships between government and citizens in China in certain policy domains. The remainder of the article is constructed as follows. The next section presents some background information about noncompliance of households being resettled in China. We then illustrate the three perspectives on noncompliance and present several hypotheses. The fourth section describes our data and methods. Three clusters of hypotheses are tested by a set of regression models, and the results are also interpreted using follow-up interviews in the fifth section. We conclude by discussing the findings and their implications.


Between 1950 and 2000, more than 45 million people in China were displaced due to the construction of new development projects (Fuggle and Smith 2000). As Chinas economic and political reforms have deepened, such projects have taken on unprecedented addressing the needs of a growing population for housing and amenities, and also by exhibiting the social-economic achievements of local governments (Guo 2009). However, public noncompliance with the compensation arrangements frequently occurs. During the 2003–2006 period, 40% of all petitions submitted to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls in Beijing were from resettled households,1 and the percentage of such petitions submitted to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls affiliated with the Central Department of Construction was estimated at more than 70%.2 Even though total petitions have declined in some large provinces, such as Sichuan, in recent years, the proportion of petitions concerning resettlement and land transfers still amount to above 40%.3 Under current legal and administrative frameworks, compensation for rural landowners covers three economic losses: the loss of farmland, relocation expenses, and the loss of on-site property and agricultural production. As previous research indicates, compensation to involved farmers is distributed in a piecemeal fashion, often subject to delays and less than that documented in agreement contracts (Guo 2001), and compensation for the loss of agricultural production rarely reflects the former economic productivity of the land (Yep and Fong 2009). In the case of urban redevelopment projects, house occupiers and property owners have three options: ownership exchange (chanquan zhihuan, a type of payment in-kind), monetary compensation (huobi buchang), and a combination of the two.4 As all three options target the properties on the land rather than the value of the land itself, it is difficult for households to resume previous housing standards without extra assistance from the government (Li, Waley, and Rees 2001). The result is that households rarely regard the procedures as equal and fair. The disparity between demands for fair and adequate compensation and the reality has been accentuated, in part, by the fact that annual revenues of China’s local governments collected from land transfers have surged rapidly. As Figure 1 indicates, there was a rapid rise from less than $100 billion in 2003 to nearly $700 billion in 2014, an increase of over 690% over the 12 years. With such plentiful financial resources, local governments are expected to

Figure 1. Land transferring fees in China 2003–2014, in billion US dollars. Source: Ministry of Finance, PRC,, Ministry and Land and Resources, PRC, http://www.mlr. pay affected households more favorable compensation. Under these circumstances, hesitation and delays in improving compensation could be construed as irresponsibility in taking care of public needs, adding to tensions between local governments and the involved households. Also, there has been an absence of an effective mechanism to monitor and control the conduct of local bureaucracies. In rural land expropriation, the local government plays three roles: (1) as an intermediary between villagers and developers in reaching consensus on compensation; (2) as the verifier of the legal transfer of the land collectively owned by the villagers to the land owned by the state5; and (3) as both development supervisor and funding agency (Wang and Wall 2007). Without proper supervision, the governments abuse of administrative power might result in unexpected outcomes, such as its collusion with real estate developers in the pursuit for higher premium from selling the lands, or decisions of forcing households to accede to the compensation so that more financial slack could be obtained for initiating other resettlement projects. In the case of resettling urban households, the regulations in place since 2001 stipulate that developers can apply to local authorities for approval of “compulsory demolition(qiangzhi chaiqian). Should they obtain such approval, households are forced to relocate elsewhere, even if they were noncompliant with the compensation (Phan 2005). In January 2011, the State Council

approved a new regulation to nullify the use of “compulsory demolition to solve persisting compensation disputes, and replaced it with compulsory implementation undertaken by the court system upon the local governments application.6 Much skepticism, however, remains about the court’s approach, and the concerns lie in whether the court would give in to coercion from the local government or collude with it. Although the performance evaluation regime does confer the power to sanction officials responsible for social unrest, the punishment of them is nominal at best. There have been a number of cases in which local leaders remained in office, even after a death among protesting households, and few have been demoted.7 Recently, the central ministries have taken some measures to prevent noncompliance from escalating into large-scale resistance. Local authorities are required to change the procedures they have in place. The Ministry of Construction (MOC, predecessor to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development), as the key actor, emphasizes that the location, function, and construction floorage of properties should be taken as the integral reference for appraisals in determining compensation amounts.8 It also prohibits the coercion and suppression of householders, such as through the suspension of water, electricity, and gas supplies, or forcing them to vacate their properties.9 However, such top-down mandates lose their power when trickled down through the hierarchies. Some local governments urge local courts to invalidate appraisal levels when they deem the concomitant compensation to be unaffordable,10 and others implement regulations

selectively to justify their actions, which actually infringe on individual ownership rights (OBrien and Li 1999). These moves often backfire and end in radical noncompliance and social unrest in diverse forms; some households have publicly revealed conspiracy and corruption surrounding compensation formulation, some have physically expelled the officials sent to displace them, some have pursued litigation over compensation (Lum 2006; Li and O’Brien 2008) and, in the most extreme cases, some have burnt themselves alive in their courtyards or on rooftops to shock local bureaucrats.



Based on theoretical models identified in previous literature, and observations from the Chinese setting, we find that three streams of reasoning are relevant to understand the causes of noncompliance: an instrumental perspective, a procedural perspective, and a collective perspective. Specifically, the instrumental perspective assumes that households pursuit of material interests and prevention of economic loss mobilizes noncompliance. The procedural perspective suggests that households evaluation of the processes used by government will shape their noncompliance. The collective perspective postulates that the level of noncompliance will relate to social ties within the community.

The Instrumental Perspective

This perspective argues that human beings react to public policy according to selfinterest, based on how they judge policy implementation to be benefiting or harming their immediate interests. It underlines the importance of “cost-benefit analyses in the mind of the affected public. As Giles and Gatlin (1980) contend, “compliance can be expected when the costs of noncompliance plus the benefits of compliance outweigh the costs of compliance plus the benefits of noncompliance. Some early studies support the idea that material status and subjective feelings can all be calculated in terms of costs and benefits. In research on subway workers in New York, Swerdlow (1990) concludes that “workers attitudes towards compliance were calculating, rational and pragmatic . . . . They believed in following orders where and when necessary to avoid harassment or punishment and to gain favors from supervision.” The perspective also emphasizes the need to calculate the chances of achieving the ends of noncompliance through different means. As Frazier (1972) notes, “not only must he weigh against the good he desires to accomplish the evil his act may bring about, but he must also weigh against it the likelihood that he can achieve the same end through normal political channels.Studies from the Chinese context indicate that there might be two factors that are related to a citizen taking the instrumental perspective. The first is the house floorage. For affected households, we might assume that they have an inherent motive to try to maintain, if not increase, their standard of living through a high level of compensation. Floorage is important because the compensation amount each Chinese household currently receives is mainly calculated by the demolished space and setting based on a standard price for each unit of space (Tang, Wong, and Lau 2008). Because the standard unit compensation price is generally lower than the market price, owning a larger house means a heavier extra financial cost to purchase a new place of the same size. Because the benefits from being noncompliant with the compensation solution (i.e., staying in the

large house) are perceived to far exceed the benefits of being compliant, the owners of larger houses may have a greater incentive to challenge the compensation. Hence, from the instrumental perspective, we would expect that households with larger-sized houses to be compensated for would demonstrate higher levels of noncompliance. Households’ uncompensated decoration costs occurring before the announcement of resettlement might also be related to noncompliance from the instrumental perspective. A central concern for households is whether they regard the resettlement policy as economically favorable or not. If they do not think their investment in the original houses would be compensated adequately, it is very likely that they would resist the compensation plan. In recent years, many Chinese households have rebuilt and renovated their houses, in part to demonstrate their wealth and face, and in part to reap more economic benefits (Sargeson 2002). Once the houses are targeted for resettlement, whether past improvement costs are calculated as part of the compensation becomes crucial for

households to evaluate their economic loss. With higher amounts of improvement cost uncompensated, a household might perceive the compensation as more inadequate, thus leading to higher noncompliance. From the instrumental perspective, we would assume that the improvement costs are positively related to households noncompliance.

The Procedural Perspective

The procedural perspective is an alternative to the instrumental one, with the premise that individuals do not resist authority simply out of economic motives. Many empirical studies indicate that people will voluntarily comply with requests and orders when perceiving them to be just and fair, and resist those which are unjust (Neubauer and Kastner 1969; Farrell 1977). Tyler and his colleagues provide rich and robust findings from both realistic and experimental settings, covering a range of contexts such as negotiation (Hollander-Blumoff and Tyler 2008), group development (Huo et al. 1996), crime control (Tyler 2009b), and policing (Tyler, Schulhofer, and Hup 2010). The central finding is that people’s concern about procedures (also referred to as process) is crucial to their adherence behaviors, as individuals are motivated by how the decisions are made, and place a high value on the fairness of such processes and the treatment they receive from others. The effect from procedural justice is found to persist across races and genders (Tyler, Callahan, and Frostet 2007). In some cases, procedural justice has a significant effect on one’s view of the effectiveness of the institution or authority, even if the outcome one receives from the institution is unfavorable (Napier and Tyler 2008, 525). Blader and Tyler (2003) suggest that people evaluate procedures using four distinct types of judgment: formal quality of decision making, formal quality of treatment, informal quality of decision making, and informal quality of treatment. Other studies, while not explicitly applying the components in this model, echo them. Mastrofski, Snipes, and Supina (1996) find that “when the states agents do things that undercut their legitimacy (show disrespect), compliance becomes problematic, but when they act from a position of strengthened legitimacy, the probability of success is enhanced.Ulbig (2002) sees perceptions of procedural neutrality as consistently affecting citizens feelings

of obligation to obey the government. Along this line of reasoning, an empirical study on zoning also confirms that trust can predict compliance (Cooper, Knotts, and Brennan 2008). From the procedural perspective, we would expect that households noncompliance will be related to two factors. The first is the participation experience of the households. Observations from China reveal that if households are excluded from the compensation assessment procedures, it is more likely that they become skeptical about the equity and justice of compensation outcomes, and evaluate the process of compensation making as unmonitored and corrupted (Guo 2001). Scholars argue that, in China, these participatory mechanisms are still underdeveloped, with local authorities often negotiating only with some privileged households and ignoring the majority (Wang and Wall 2007). Poor treatment, by not giving ordinary households the right even to present their views, stirs radical resistance and a desire to restore justice (Lum 2006). Mertha s

research (2009) illustrates that some active citizens resist resettlement initiatives because they demand an open policymaking process rather than the largely authoritarian one operating today. We would expect that the households involved in formulating compensation are less noncompliant. The second factor touches on households trust in local authority. Chinese households doubts about bureaucracies’ motives in resettling them have become a salient problem. Households keep calling into question the governments capacity and commitment to

sustain their livelihoods (Guo 2001; Lum 2006). We speculate that distrust by households in the authority imposes an emotional liability on the authority when it seeks to gain popular consent. It is likely that, if the mentality that the local authority is not trustworthy has become dominant among households, people might interpret whatever government does as violating fairness. Thus, we hypothesize that trust in the authorities is negatively related to noncompliance.12

The Collective Perspective

The incorporation of a collective perspective may compensate for the inadequacies of instrumental and procedural perspectives by drawing on the social ties of households. This perspective assumes that citizens are mobilized by other community members, and are also aware of their own influence on others. As Useem and Useem (1979) state, “people are brought into protest movements primarily because certain social circumstances permit or encourage participation, and not primarily because of their particular beliefs or attitudes.Woliver (1996) contends that activists see themselves as members of a group with a political ideology framing issues in a social context. Collective thinking produces a set of results through sharing ideas. Pickett (2001) states that “individuals in small and large groups will have to talk with one another, invoking both shared and disparate notions of what counts as moral goods and of what modern practices endanger those goods. One result of collective thinking might be a following the majority mentality, which renders one particularly sensitive to what others are inclined to do. As Ostrom (2000) comments, “compliance rates are increased when individuals feel that others too are following the rule.These logics lead us to hypothesize two factors as related to the noncompliance of households. The first is the households importance in the community. Empirical research on China’s land reform indicates that those community members with salient social status and respectable positions are more likely to sustain their resistance to the local authority (Cai 2005; Shi and Cai 2006). In contrast, without leadership, ordinary households are

likely to comply with the government’s pressure (Zhou 1993). Perhaps one reason is that such status and position mean that whenever difficulties with or threats from the local authority emerge, important households are more capable of mobilizing resources effectively to protect their interests. In contrast, ordinary households are compliant due to the fear that they are unable to deal with the threat. Thus, we would expect that more important households in the community are more noncompliant. The second factor is households reliance on the community. Households help and receive help from one another to get collective social and economic results. They benefit from this “social capital to varying degrees (Putnam 2001). China’s resettlement experience shows that, as the resettlement policy is implemented, the reciprocal relationships among community members are often dissolved due to the difficulties in finding a space large enough for resettling them together (Yan 2008; Oliver-Smith 2006; Li and Song 2009). This evokes a sense of socio-political disempowerment, along with cultural and economic loss (Li, Waley, and Rees 2001). For households highly reliant on the community, the loss would probably be deemed as severe, which may lead to increased noncompliance. We hypothesize that the stronger the households reliance on the community, the more likely they are noncompliant with the compensation.


Sample Community and the Hui Minority

In 2009 and 2011, we conducted surveys and interviews in Sajin Qiao, a “village in thecity (chengzhongcun) populated by members of the Hui ethnic minority in Xian, capital of the western Chinese province of Shaanxi. We chose this community because of our unique access to the residents there and, more importantly, because of its ongoing dispute with the local government over resettlement compensation, which has now lasted for more than six years.13 In April 2005, the Xi’an city government issued An Implementation Measure for EnforcingDemolition and Relocation to Widen the Main Road in the Sajin Qiao Area. The measure’simplementation was assigned to a government-financed agency, headed by the director of thedistricts Construction Bureau. The measure stipulates that the main Sajin Qiao Road would be widened to 80 meters, which meant that the majority of households would have to be resettled. The developer organized a forum to gather opinions on compensation from certain numbers of households. In November 2005, the developer initiated construction of an apartment complex and mosque in an arbitrarily designated locale, ignoring the calls from households that the developer should provide compensation by high-rise, high-density apartments and a commercial zone in the original community. The new apartment complex and mosque were completed at the end of 2008. For each square meter of a demolished house, the developer offered about 2,000 RMB (US $298) in compensation. However, according to the official estimate of residential housing prices in Xian, in 2011, each square meter was sold at 6,411 RMB (US $1,019). The affected households then submitted a rejection of the compensation to the district government to express their dissatisfaction with the compensation plan. The Sajin Qiao citizens response took a non-violent, moderate form, which fits our conception of noncompliance exactly.

Data and Respondents

At the time of the research, the community had 1,220 households. We sampled 10% of them (122 households). For each household, we identified the individual responsible for making and announcing the decision to accept or reject the compensation. These individuals were surveyed. Eight households declined to participate, and six returned incomplete responses. As a result, a total of 108 valid questionnaires (88.5%) were collected. The descriptive analyses show that the respondents were primarily men (63.9%) over the age of 50 (65.8%) with a low level of academic achievement (just 4.6%with a Bachelors degree and 54.6%with less than a high school education). The Hui tradition of entrusting the senior members to make and announce collective decisions suggests that our respondents’ responses are representative of household opinions. About two years after the questionnaire survey was finished, we also did follow-up interviews to confirm whether our empirical analysis results were robust and to further elaborate why these factors matter. A total of 15 households were paid a return visit. They were asked to make some comments on why the effects of the factors varied. An example question was that we are interested to know why house floorage is so important in shaping householdsnoncompliance; could you make an analysis?



We used one item to measure households’ noncompliance, asking the respondents to which degree the household members are generally willing to resettle, given the compensation solution proposed by the district authority. A five-point scale was used to assess households attitudes, with 1 indicating very willing to, 2 indicating willing to, 3 indicating neither willing nor unwilling to, 4 indicating unwilling to, and 5 indicating very unwilling to.The instrumental perspective made use of two variables: house floorage and uncompensated improvement costs. The measure of house floorage used multiple-choice questions for the respondent to indicate the floorage officially covered under the compensation scheme, with 1 indicating no more than 50 m2, 2 indicating between 50 to 100 m2, 3 indicating between 100 and 200 m2, and 4 larger than 200 m2. To confirm the validity of the measure, we used some archives from the community authority to check variations in house floorage. For uncompensated improvement costs, since the district authority did not take these costs into account when formulating the compensation for Sajin Qiao households, a direct assessment of household costs was required. We asked the respondents to report any such costs incurring before 2008.14 A four-point scale was used, with 1 indicating no interior decoration, 2 indicating simple interior decoration, 3 some interior decoration, and 4 indicating advanced interior decoration. During the survey, we observed the housing status and confirmed the responses. The procedural perspective included measurements of households participation experience and trust in the local authority. Using subjective measurements might make causality ambiguity a methodological concern; that is, the households that were highly noncompliant with the compensation solution might give more negative responses to these two questions. We instead used objective data for measurement. For participation experience, the district authority invited households with the following attributes to deliberate compensation needs in a forum in 2008: (1) households whose yards or houses were officially recognized as “historical sites or protected cultural heritage; (2) houses located at crossroads; (3) households with the whole construction available for rent. Our interviews confirmed that the district authority made sure to invite all of these households to the forum, with zero absences. Accordingly, where any of these three attributes were present, we knew objectively that the surveyed households had participated in the forum. Otherwise, households were excluded from participation. A binary variable was therefore created with 0 indicating no participation and 1 indicating participation. Trust in the local authority was measured by asking respondents whether the household participated in an election in 2008, which was organized by the district authority to form a committee for negotiating the compensation. Participating in the election indicated that the household had a belief that the compensation plan was negotiable; not participating in the election indicated that the household was probably skeptical of the district authority’s willingness to consider the committees views seriously. The election was conducted before the compensation plan was proposed and the households were free to choose whether to vote. Thus, the possibility that households refused to vote because they considered the compensation inadequate could be ruled out. A binary variable was therefore generated, with not voting coded as 0, indicating low trust, and voting coded as 1, indicating higher trust. The collective perspective used two variables. Households importance in the community was measured by asking them four questions about whether, by the beginning of 2009, the householder (1) was affiliated with a Chinese political party, including the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and other minority parties15; (2) owned a private business and provided job opportunities for the community; (3) served in the local government; and (4) was well-educated (college and above). We assumed that households with such attributes were capable of playing a more significant role within the community’s networks. Each positive response was scored 1 point, with a maximum score of 4. Households reliance on the community was assessed through two questions. First, we asked the households how much help they had received from other members in the community when they met with difficulties. A five-point scale was used to measure the responses, with 1 indicating no help, 2 indicating little help, 3 indicating some help, 4 indicating much help, and 5 indicating warmly help. Second, we also asked the households how much help they had provided for other members in the community who met with difficulties. The responses were also measured with a five-point scale, with 1 indicating no help, 2 indicating little help, 3 indicating some help, 4 indicating much help, and 5 indicating warmly help. We then subtracted the second score from the first one, to make a single index which gauged the households’ net reliance on the community. The measurement captured the gaps between the resources households obtained from the community to sustain their lives and the resources households provided to other community members. The larger the ga, the more severe the reliance became. Multiple regression analysis based on ordinary least squares estimation (OLS) was performed to test the hypotheses. In terms of the five-term dependent variable, ordered logit regression analysis was also performed to test robustness. In case these objective variables were significantly related with one another, we used multi-collinearity tests to determine the degree to which any collinearity might have a distorting effect. In order to understand whether or not these factors matter in detail, we also used follow-up interviews to further interpret our research findings. The mixed methods, both quantitative and qualitative, can help us create a whole and vivid image about antecedents of households’ noncompliance.


Table 1 reports the descriptive statistics for all variables used in the study. The mean value of house floorage was 2.315, indicating that the surveyed households generally occupied accommodation of a moderate size. A frequency analysis further shows that 39.8%of the households resided in houses ranging from 50 to 100 m2, 24.1%in houses with less than 50 m2, and 16.7%in houses with 100–200 m2. Only 19.4%of households reported accommodation of over 200 m2. This distribution was comparable with the average distribution of house sizes in the Sajin Qiao community and no statistically significant differences were found. The average value of uncompensated improvement was 2.991, suggesting that households had invested significantly in improvement. In the past five years, 25.9%had simple interior decoration, 35.2%􀀀had some interior decoration, and 34.3%of the households had advanced decoration. Only 4.6%of the households had no decoration. Less than 40% (38.9) of the surveyed households participated in the forum, and less than 40%(39.8) voted for the negotiation committee. The mean value for the two factors reflecting the collective perspective indicates that most households were not very influential in the community (mean value ? 0.852), and that their reliance on the other community members was little (mean value ? ?0.074). The mean value of noncompliance (mean value ? 3.306) suggests that the majority of surveyed households were reluctant to resettle, given the current compensation offered. Table 1 also provides the results of bivariate correlation analyses on all of the variables. Two OLS regression models and two ordered logit regression models are presented in Table 2. All four models are statistically significant and have acceptable R2 (more than 0.2), which means that the six variables together explain more than 20%of the variance in the dependent variable across these four models. The multi-collinearity tests show that none of the independent variables in these four models has a variance inflation factor (VIF) higher than 2. As Neter, Wasserman, and Kutner (1985) prescribe, when individual VIF value exceeds 10, multi-collinearity might be a cause for concern. Therefore, it is unlikely that the results are affected by collinearity. Comparing these two OLS models (model 1 and 2), no significant changes are found when respondents’ gender, age, and education are controlled. That is also the case for the two ordered logit regression models. Moreover, the results of the ordered logit regression models are also consistent with those of their corresponding OLS regression models. Hence, our findings are robust to different estimations. As Table 2 shows, three variables are significant: house floorage, trust in the authority, and reliance on the community. House floorage has positive effects across these four models, significant at the 0.10 or 0.05 level. According to models 3 and 4, each one-unit increase of the measurement of house floorage increases the odds of being more noncompliant by 51.1% and 64.9%, respectively. This means that households with larger houses were more noncompliant with the current compensation plan than others. Follow-up interviews support the findings. One interviewee commented: “The district authority uses the same criteria for all houses regardless of variances in floorage. With large-sized house we shall pay for a bigger deficit by ourselves. Unless it takes our loss into account we shall not accept it.” Another interviewee also indicated: Larger houses mean greater comfort. If the district authority wants households used to residing in bigger houses to resettle in smaller ones, it has to compensate them with more money for losing such comfort.Households trust in the authority has negative coefficients in models 14, significant at the 0.01 or 0.05 level. Models 3 and 4 indicate that households trust in the authority, gauged by voluntary voting in the committee election, decreases the odds of being more noncompliant by 59.5%􀀀and 65.9%, respectively. This suggests that households which had a stronger belief in the fairness and effectiveness of the process which the local government used to implement the resettlement compensation policy, and which voted in the committee election, were more likely to accept the current compensation plan. Our qualitative findings suggest that using the election participation decision as a proxy to measure trust is valid. In the follow-up interview, a respondent recalled: “We did not participate in the voting since we deem the committee as a window-dressing group, which is coerced to play formalistic roles. The key issue here is that it lacks the element of

justice.” Another interviewee commented: We have a sense of distrust toward the moves by the local authority. That is why we refuse to do whatever it promulgates as benefiting us. Not voting is to hint to the officials that we know they are not trustworthy.In models 1 and 2, reliance on the community shows positive effects that are significant at the 0.05 level. Models 3 and 4 also suggest that each one-unit increase of the measurement of reliance on the community increases the odds of being more noncompliant by 181.5% and 179.3%, respectively. The interviews support that it is associated with noncompliance. One respondent told us: “Some households life will definitely get affected due to the project; their good relations with the community members are gone as old neighbors with access to better dwelling facilities choose to leave them. A sense of helplessness would make them more noncompliant. Another interviewee, whose family received subsistence allowances, indicated: The others know that we are in need of help, and are willing to offer help to us. We dont want this to change.The variable of uncompensated improvement costs hypothesized to have a positive effect fails to gain significant regression coefficients in all four models. We found that our interviewees recognized these effects in different ways. As one interviewee indicated, they renovated the house by their own decision, thus it is unrealistic to expect the project to cover it for us. In contrast, other households insist that their loss should be compensated as much as possible. One interviewee commented: Every cent we cost in decoration is from our own pocket, and if the district authority really protects our private property rights, it should compensate these costs.Participation experience is significant in none of these models. Our interpretations of the results are two-fold. First, empirically, our interviewees were split about how participation itself worked. Some indicated that exclusion from the forum stirred them to conceive the decision-making procedure and treatment as unjust (youshi gongping)or manipulating public opinions (caozong minyi), resulting in noncompliance. However, some involved in the forum also regarded the procedure as fruitless anyway: Indeed it makes no difference to involve us, because there is nothing we can do to change the terms and conditions in the compensation plan; the district authority would not compromise and give us more money. Second, methodologically, our measurement of participation experience might have some inherent flaws. Though it followed a quasi-experimental design by setting the non-participation households as the control group, participant households as the treatment group were not selected randomly. Households fitting the three criteria (“historical sites or protected cultural heritage, located at the crossroads, whole construction for rent) were invited by the local government to participate, probably with the assumption that their particular interests would be more affected by the developmentinduced. project than other households. One might thus question whether, while some of the invited households felt involved in the policymaking process and thus were willing to comply with the compensation package (consistent with the procedural perspective), other invited households might fear a more severe impact from the project and decide on noncompliance (consistent with the instrumental reasoning). This mixed picture of motives could explain why the variable is insignificant in the model. Finally, importance in the community also doesn’t show any significant effect on noncompliance in all four models. Households’ comments suggest that importance in the community has mixed effects on noncompliance. An interviewee from an influential family responded that there is a “social obligation for them to make other people live a good life, even if some unseen risks due to organizing them for better compensation might emerge. Other households with influential status thought differently. One respondent commented: “We are afraid that too much discussion with the poorer households about the compensation might be interpreted by the local authority as instigating the community

members to act against the government’s will, which shall do harm to the image of our family. As the old Chinese saying goes, the bird taking the lead will be shot. Generally, the follow-up interviews show that there is no uniform way of understanding the three factors found to be insignificant, as they each work in two directions, both increasing and decreasing noncompliance.


We know too little about citizens’ response to government policies, though it is really important for governments to be sensitive to citizens concerns and preferences. Combining the three perspectives advocated by political scientists and economists, legal scholars and sociologists, we have suggested a comprehensive framework to explain households noncompliance with compensation arrangements proposed by local governments. Based on a case from a community in China, this research uses data from a survey to test this framework and explains, through follow-up interviews, why all three perspectives play a role in citizens noncompliance. The empirical findings show that our integrated approach is appropriate and that noncompliance needs to be understood as the result of a mix of diverse reasons. Specifically in this case, our results show that house floorage, households trust in local authority, and their reliance on other community members, derived in turn from the instrumental perspective, the procedural perspective, and the collective perspective, are all significantly associated with noncompliance. Our findings are consistent with the recent development of grievance-based theory that multiple

perspectives are needed to enrich theory (Humphreys and Weinstein 2008; Lens 2009; Tyler, Schulhofer, and Hup 2010). While not denying that adequate economic instruments are important to compensate for the losses of the project-affected population, our case reminds local authorities that this is only a part of the challenge they face, for households react to compensation not simply based on their own economic concerns, but also on grounds of procedural fairness and collective interests. This work contributes to public administration research by developing a general noncompliance theory from instrumental, procedural, and collective perspectives; it also explains empirically households’ noncompliance in a western Chinese city and reveals some important implications. First, households with large-sized houses are more noncompliant with compensation that has been proposed, consistent with the instrumental perspective. This indicates that the one size fits all method used by Chinese local

authorities, via a uniform low standard compensation per square meter and a uniform high standard price per square meter to buy resettlement houses, is problematic. Generally, the standard compensation per square meter is lower than the market price level. In this case, the compensation one resettled household received was not enough for them to buy a new house as large as the one that was demolished. Then, households had to pay extra money if they wanted to buy a new house as large as the houses they previously lived in using the compensation. Under this compensation system, households with bigger houses would have to pay more money from their own pockets to keep their housing levels, and hence it is especially difficult to gain their support. We suggest that local authorities assess how much it costs a household to resume living with their previous standard of housing, and generate different assessment criteria for compensation. Households with bigger houses need to get much higher compensation than those with smaller ones in order to keep the same housing level, with the differences reflecting real price gaps in the housing market. The use of different compensation criteria might be an effective way to cope with the potential threat arising and might also ensure compensation for other households that is more closely related to the housing market. Second, from the procedural perspective, our findings about the effect of trust on noncompliance pose a fundamental question for local authorities in charge of such projects: whether the community affected by the resettlement policy really believes that the authorities are serving the public interest. Early evidence shows that when resettlement-related projects are aimed at promoting long-term public benefits, and administered with adequate transparency, households are willing to give up their immediate interests if necessary (Frey and Oberholzer-Gee 1997). The households in the Sajin Qiao community rejected the compensation, in part because they felt that they were being manipulated by procedures used by the local authority. The local authority should pay greater attention to this perception. As our case indicates, the fact that only a small portion of households choose even to vote for a consultative committee might be a sign of low trust; such low trust might, in turn, intensify noncompliance because households perceived that they were being further marginalized. To allay this concern, we suggest that local authorities improve their relationships with local communities that are to be resettled. They should recognize that the key to increasing compliance is to empower the affected households. In our case, if the households’ committee had been granted some legal status to overrule the compensation solution, and to have access to higher-level authorities to review the case with the power to order an improvement, then households might perceive their rights as being well protected. In essence, change is required in the legal system to clarify the roles of the local authority and the rights of affected households. Third, our study also provides evidence that households reliance on other community members is a significant factor affecting noncompliance, reflecting the relevance of the collective perspective. Social contact plays an important role in the Hui community, challenging the traditional assumption in China that noncompliant households are only concerned about the direct economic consequences. It suggests to us that economic instruments are important and necessary, but not enough, to make up the losses suffered by the project-affected population. Local officials should therefore provide further help to households that are highly reliant on the community to sustain their lives, because these households are less capable of buffering themselves from the shock of resettlement. Assistance needs to be planned and delivered before and during the resettlement, depending on in which aspect and to which degree they are reliant, and whether they are able to replicate this reliance after resettlement. This is aimed at convincing them that the future is not as hopeless as they might envision. The study also contributes to better understanding the dynamics involved in public accountability in China. Accountability is usually regarded as a relationship between an actor and his or her principal, in which the actor has an obligation to explain and to justify his or her conduct, the principal can pose questions and pass judgment, and the actor may then face consequences (Behn 2001; Bovens 2007a). We suggest that more attention should be given to the informal aspect of public accountability relationships in China. Much ink has been spilled over the fact that China’s regime is dominated by its top-down hierarchical accountability mechanism (Tsai 2007; Chan and Su 2009; Gong 2009; Kung, Cai, and Sun 2009; Walker and Wu 2010). These authors argue that, in China, subordinate government officials are generally accountable to their hierarchical superiors (Chan and Gao 2009; Gao 2009; 2010; Chan and Rosenbloom 2010; Liang and Langbein 2015), and it is difficult for the general public to hold officials accountable in a direct way (Gao 2009; Walker and Wu 2010). However, the empirical findings of this article suggest that such arguments do not tell the whole story. Although households in Sajin Qiao were not given adequate participation opportunities, with petitions and complaints responded to casually, their refusal to withdraw from the pre-resettled community worked in bringing about a deadlock that stopped the project from proceeding. The local authority could do nothing to change a lose-lose situation unless it modified its protocols. As Barberis (1998) suggests, a typical accountability system could be investigated along five fronts: who is accountable; for what; to whom (or what); through what mechanisms; and with what kind of accountability outcome. This framework can also be used to help us understand this kind of informal accountability in China. Viewed from an informal accountability perspective (Romzek et al. 2014), their noncompliance provides evidence that households can also hold the local authority and officials accountable in their own way: as long as households are noncompliant and defend their homes, the financial and reputation costs of the local authority and the developers increase. Local officials probably face severe political punishment and public criticism when they are unable to keep their promise to finish the project. In this light, noncompliance reflects not only local authorities’ failure to meet households expectations about their future livelihood, but also reflects their failures in designing and executing public policy. For local officials, the outcomes resulting from these informal sanctions are real and formidable, suggesting that citizens might be less disadvantaged than their status in the formal accountability relationships suggests. Previous studies have pointed out that the adoption of accountability systems helps to achieve multiple purposes, such as controlling, informing, attributing, blaming, etc.(Amanda 1995; Behn 2001; Bovens 2007b). However, this categorization of accountability purposes seems relevant only to public managers. Citizens understanding of why it is necessary to hold officials accountable might present another picture. Looking at noncompliance as a barometer of the extent to which households demand public accountability of local officials, it seems that households are calling for the local authority to be held accountable when they suffer from economic loss, or distrust local government, or suffer from a breakdown of social ties. There are some limitations in this research. First, the samples were from a Hui ethnic community in western China. Local authorities in China are reported to be more careful in negotiating with minorities affected by development projects than they are with the Han majority, and display greater patience in bargaining with the former (Wang and Wall 2007). The Sajin Qiao case therefore may not be representative of other urban communities in China. More studies are needed to identify the causes of noncompliance in other communities, and to make comparisons across communities with various ethnic characteristics. Second, we use subjective perceptions to measure noncompliance, which may eventually result in various households behaviors. Future studies might observe more closely the observable behavioral aspects of noncompliance. Doing so would require access to a community where some households accept the compensation and resettle elsewhere, and other households continue their resistance. A historical event analysis method might be an appropriate tool to analyze the data. Third, while we identify the importance of the factors underlining the three perspectives, we are unable to compare which perspectives have the strongest effects among the

three.16 A future study should select variables that theoretically affect compliance in the same direction, and transform them into meaningful overall scales to examine which perspective explains the largest proportion of the variance in noncompliance. Finally, in view of our flawed measurement of participation experience, we encourage the use of an experimental design to test the procedural justice hypothesis further in future similar research. Specifically, scholars can manipulate some households to have the opportunity to participate in the hearing with random selection and then explore how participation is related to noncompliance.


1. The State Bureau for Letters and Calls is an independent agency directly under the State Council, China’s central government. It is responsible for collecting and handling petitions from the public. For more details, see:

2. See China Youth Online Wang, 2010.

3. See Sichuan News Online (2014).

4. The State Council, 2001, Urban Housing Demolition and Relocation Administrative Statute [Chengshi fangwu chaiqian guanli tiaoli], The State Council, Beijing.

5. According to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, China practices socialist public ownership of land. Specifically, the land in urban areas is owed by the state and the land in rural areas is owned by the rural collectives. 6. See Xinhua News (Wang, 2011).

7. See the Southern Weekend Newspaper (Ye, 2010).

8. MOC 2003 Guidelines on Urban Displaced Housing Valuation [Chengshi fangwu chaiqian gujia zhidao yijian], Ministry of Construction, Beijing.

9. MOC 2003 Procedures of Administrative Arbitration for Urban Housing Demolition [Chengshi fangwu chaiqian xingzheng caijue gongzuo guicheng], Ministry of Construction, Beijing.

10. See China Youth Daily.

11. See the Southern Weekend Newspaper (Ye, 2010).

12. Although trust can also be seen from the calculative perspective, there is a theoretical concern that trust through the lens of maximizing utility will fail to see the linking of the selfinterested behavior to a loss in public trust (Ruscio 1996, 466). We herein see trust from the procedural perspective when generating our hypotheses.

13. The ancestors of China’s Hui minority were Muslim traders and diplomats who traveled from Persia and the Arabian countries to China in and around the seventh century AD (during the Tang Dynasty). The China’s Census in 2000 estimated the Hui population to total 9,816,805, ranking it the fourth largest minority ethnicity in the People’s Republic of China.

14. We did not ask the households about the decoration costs incurred after they had seen the compensation, in case some opportunistic households might increase such costs to ask for more compensation.

15. These minority political parties are also called “democratic parties (minzhu dangpai). They are the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (Min Ge), the China Democratic League (Min Meng), the China National Democratic Construction Association (Min Jian), the China Association for Promoting Democracy (Min Jin), the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party (Nonggong Dang), the China Zhi Gong Party (Zhigong Dang), the Jiu San (Sept. 3rd) Society (Jiusan xueshe), and the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (Tai Meng).

16. An anonymous reviewer suggested that we use overall scales which gauge each group of variables, including the instrumental, procedural, and collective perspectives. A test of transforming them into three variables for our regression analysis shows that none of the three variables is significant. Methodologically, we find that the relationships between the two factors in each group are either unrelated (significant at P > 0.10 level) or negatively related (the correlation between house floorage and decoration cost ? –.387, significant at P < 0.05 level). Aggregating the two variables into a scale thus might lose socioeconomic meanings, causing the scale to have unclear meanings and gaining insignificant results.


This reseach was supported by the General Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (71173167) and Key Philosophy and Social Science Research Project of Chinese Ministry of Education (13JZD015).


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Jiannan Wu ( is a distinguished professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. He serves as Executive Vice Director of the China Institute for Urban Governance and Director of Center for Reform, Innovation and Governance at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His research interests include innovation, performance management, and urban governance.

Yuqian Yang ( is a senior economist at the Key Laboratory of Coal Resources Exploration and Comprehensive Utilization, Ministry of Land and Resources, Xi’an, China. He is also in charge of the General Managers Office at Shaanxi Coal Geology Group Corporation, Xian, China. He received his PhD in management from the School of Management, Xian Jiaotong University, China.

Pan Zhang ( is an assistant professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. He also serves as a research fellow at the Center for Chinese Local Governance Innovations, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. His research interests include policy process and environmental policy.

Liang Ma ( is an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Administration, Renmin University of China, China. His research interests include public organizational innovation, performance measurement, and digital governance.

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