HOUSEHOLDS’ NONCOMPLIANCE WITH RESETTLEMENT COMPENSATION IN URBAN CHINA: TOWARD AN INTEGRATED APPROACH
International Public Management Journal
SHANGHAI JIAO TONG UNIVERSITY
KEY LABORATORY OF COAL RESOURCES EXPLORATION AND
SHANGHAI JIAO TONG UNIVERSITY AND XI’AN JIAOTONG UNIVERSITY
RENMIN UNIVERSITY OF CHINA
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 people’s
motives to reciprocate with other community members from a collective perspective.
However, we still don’t 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
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
(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
OF RESETTLED HOUSEHOLDS IN CHINA
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, http://www.mof.gov.cn, Ministry and Land and Resources, PRC, http://www.mlr. gov.cn/ 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
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.
PUBLIC NONCOMPLIANCE: THREE
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.
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.
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 state’s 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
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
government’s 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
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.
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 thedistrict’s 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 Xi’an, 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.
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 households’noncompliance; 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 committee’s
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 1–4, 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
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 don’t
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
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
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: http://www.gjxfj.gov.cn/.
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
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) 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 Manager’s Office at Shaanxi Coal Geology
Group Corporation, Xi’an, China. He received his PhD in
management from the School of Management, Xi’an
Jiaotong University, China.
Pan Zhang (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) 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.