Exploring China’s state-university relations with scalar-governmentality: from “211/985” to “Double World-class”

Authors: Calvin King Lam Chung, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Kun Wang*, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jiang Xu, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Topics: China
Keywords: state-university relations; scale; governmentality; China
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 4:50 AM / 6:05 AM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Of late, China initiated its ‘Double World-class (DWC)’ project to reform its state-university relations. This reform, based on ‘open competition’ and ‘dynamic adjustment’ mechanisms in a competition-based model of funding allocation and policy support, attempts to upgrade the global influences of China’s higher education to accelerate its the quest for world-class universities. Drawing on a scalar-governmentality approach, this paper investigates the rescaling process and technologies of control amid China’s DWC reforms. We argue that through the downscaling of the power of elite university regulation and promotion from central governments (mainly Ministry of Education) to subnational actors, the regimes of China’s state-university relations have witnessed a fundamental shift from being a fixed, static, national-scaled system to being a dynamic, competitive, and multi-scalar one, as epitomized by the dramatic transfigurations from project 985/211 to DWC. Central governments have successfully imbued their mentalities and imaginaries of world-class Chinese universities into governed subjects at multiple scales. The downscaling is a devolution of power on the surface, in the respect of means, whereas the control in the respect of regulatory purposes has been tightened up by central governments through new techniques of power exercise, i.e. drawing on modern forms of knowledge in terms of university performance evaluations, such as quantification, auditing, and tactical evaluation. However, the mentalities and the techniques of power to materialize those mentalities rely on varied actors’ ‘regimes of practice’ and ‘technologies of self-government’ at multiple scales for actualizations.

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