Professor Lisheng Dong discusses in his inaugural lecture what went wrong in housing reform in China

On Monday, 5 March at 16:15, University of Tartu Professor of Asian politics Lisheng Dong will deliver an inaugural lecture “Housing Reform in China: Rational interests gone wrong or organizational design failure?”. The lecture is in English.

At the end of the 20th century, China’s housing policy went through a radical shift: first, a focus on provision of social housing, partly through state institutions like state-owned enterprises; second, a gradual opening of a commercial housing market; and third, an emphasis on the market aspects of housing, with social housing being very much pressured and decreasing in importance. Fourth, since 2012 the new policy is increasingly focused on social inclusion rather than merely on economic growth.

Observers have noted that the third phase was marked by ambiguity. The reform also had a number of adverse outcomes. Above all, it reflected in an increase in housing prices which is why they became unaffordable for the poor.

What accounts for these challenges and tensions in the housing policy? Two broad frameworks of analysis can be deployed to explore this question: a rational interests perspective and an organisational design or ‘instrumental-structural’ perspective.

The first approach gives a good account of the dominant role of powerful interests, ‘short-termism’ and neglect by decision-makers of key social groups. The second approach fills in some gaps in this account by showing how structural features in central-local relations and ineffecient mechanisms of policy coordination and control also contributed to the outcomes. Structural and financial reforms are needed to help correct the policy failures.

Lisheng Dong is Professor of Asian Politics at the University of Tartu Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, and Professor Emeritus of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. From June 2015 to May 2017, he was Marie Curie Professorial Fellow at the University of Glasgow, the United Kingdom. Professor Dong has published 20 books and 48 peer-reviewed articles, and contributed to 20 books. In 2012 he was co-recipient of the Pierre de Celles Award for outstanding achievements in the area of Public Administration. His latest monograph is titled “Public Administration Theories: Instrumental and Value Rationalities”.  He is the co-editor of “Urban Mobilization and the New Media in Contemporary China” and “China and the European Union”. He has published in Public Administration Review, American Review of Public Administration, International Public Management Journal, International Review of Administrative Sciences and Journal of Contemporary China.

Professor Dong’s work in Tartu is supported by the University of Tartu’s ASTRA project PER ASPERA, financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

A live webcast of his inaugural lecture will be available on UTTV.


Additional information: Lisheng Dong, University of Tartu Professor of Asian Politics,

Mari-Liis Pintson

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