ChuangYeHuaYuan's Residents’ Participation in Neighborhood Governance (Shenzhen, China)

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Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher

Scope of Influence
Start Date
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time

ChuangYeHuaYuan residents independently set up a democratic and deliberative “Lou Zhang (building manager) association” to make collective decisions about the neighbourhood.

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Problems and Purpose

It was well-known that in 2013 Chinese government put forward “social governance” advocating that citizens actively participate in the governance, specially in the “shequ” level. ChuangYeHuaYuan, a neighborhood in north Shenzhen which established since 2013, was a typical self-governance “shequ”. Self-governance meant that in a neighborhood, residents themselves set up the communication and negotiation mechanism, discussed and made decisions on public affairs. In ChuangYeHuaYuan, the residents independently set up a democratic and deliberative discussion group named “Lou Zhang (building manager) association”, connected with whom all residents participated to make decisions on public affairs. This also was regarded as a kind of democracy.

Background History and Context

Since the individualization thesis was put up by Ulrich Beck as one of the three theorems in his second modernity theory, individualization was becoming more and more influential in explaining the structural changes of modern societies. Individualization depicted a process in which individuals were forced to be independent and  burned with their own lives, they had to break away from the previous all-encompassing social categories and kinds of networks or connections. Thus people become more and more unconnected and indifferent on the public affairs though they lived still in one community.

China had undergone such a process according to Yunxiang Yan. In China, the collectivization movement in 1950s-1960s broke the traditional social categories and encompassed the individuals into the new established work units. This unintenionally opened the first stage of individualization. After this came the reform of market economy and privatization.  

Individuals possessed the freedom to move around for better opportunities. However, at the same time, they also lost the previous networks and protective work units. As the reform was deepened with policies such as privatization of housing and the marketization of education and of medical care, Chinese individuals became more and more burdened that YanYunxing called Chinese individuals “striving individuals”.

“Striving individuals” constituted a individualized and atomized society, what filled the society was anxiety, unsafety and inhospitality. Others became radical and community became unconnected. Finally it led to a unorganized foundation of the country. In the basic level of the society, public affairs remained unsolved, individuals stayed phlegmatic about others and community, nor the city and the country. Chinese government put up and advocated “social governance” to activate the grass roots to participate in the public affairs that related to their problem. ChuangYeHuaYuan was a successful example that activate the citizen to play a role in the governance.

ChuangYeHuaYuan was once a typical “wai mai xiao qu”, namely a neighborhood which was built by the construction company and lived mainly by nonnatives. What differentiate it from other neighborhoods was that the were not authorized to have the qualification of ownship of residence. As a result, ChuangYeHuaYuan didn’t have an official neighborhood committees or any organizations like this , and for a very long time, ChuangYeHuaYuan was with a bad administration and poor environment protection, it had more than 130buildings and was with 30000 people living here, but the infrastructure and the public affairs were always in trouble. People who lived in ChuangYeHuaYuan were from different regions and occupations, they did not communicate or associate, nor mutually aided, also resulting the neighborhood a tanglesome and bland one.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

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Participant Recruitment and Selection

Establishing the communication and negotiation mechanism based on which the residents discussed and made decisions on public affairs together, ChuangYeHuaYuan made itself in well-governace.

In 2013, some residents suggested to set up an association aiming at making the residential better and improving self-governance, this proposal got good feedback from the residents in the zone, thus, a “LouZhang (building manager) association” was set up, constituted by 66 members who were elected out respectively by residents who belonged to the building which he belonged, the association members were charged with collecting the opinions and appeals. “LouZhang association” was a formal registered organization, which was to some extent similar to the neighborhood committee. Establishing the association was the first step.

Methods and Tools Used

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Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

After the LouZhang (building manager) association was established, measures had to be taken to ensure its members could discuss and make decisions effectively. To this end, they employed a expert from NAP (National Association of Parliamentarians) to train them how to debate and make decision on the public issues in Robert's Rules of Order. The training was helpful, it helped the association establish formal rules of procedure to discuss and decide the affairs, this procedure consisted of ten pieces of rules (they called it “shequshiyue”) which formulated how to propose, demonstrate and vote to decide, every member learned how to propose a bill licity, express himself rightly and vote on the bills intellectually.

After all the preparation settled down , the association interviewed and communicated with residents as many as possible, collecting how they thought, asking for advice and so on. Depending on this association, many troubles had been settled down. For example, the problem of rubbish disposal, building a platform for hanging out closes, fixing fall arrestor, and renovating the electric wire network, etc.

In this way, people were organized to participate in the public affairs, they expressed needs, gave opinions and even put up solutions and finally made the public affairs well settled.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Chuang Ye Hua Yuan became an organized and tidy neighborhood after setting up the communicative mechanism. Residents were connected through the “Louzhang association” and took part in the public affairs. Actually, since 2013 in which chinese government put forward “social governance” , social governance  rapidly got ardent response from the academia and the society. “Social governance” emphasized self-governance and self-service of the society and called for the participation of organized and interdependent. Chuang Ye Hua Yuan was such an example. We could find that such practice had been more and more common in different places, these cases interacted and inter-aroused. For example, another case was “joint of three organization ”(san she lian dong) which meant that neighborhood(she qu) ,social organization(she hui zu zhi) and case workers(she gong)jointed together to solve the problems of the residents. In 2013,Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs launched the experimental work of taking “san she lian dong” as the main mode of aged-supporting in many cities. Years later,“San she lian dong” became a very popular mode for not only aged-supporting, but also other problems in neighborhoods. “Dong feng” and “zi luo yuan”, two neighborhoods  in Chao yang district of  Beijing were all constructed in the mode of “San She Lian Dong”, as well as “jiang tai”, the place where “San She Lian Dong” was initiated firstly in Beijing. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

“Social governance” meant the society should actively participate in the governance together with the government, it also emphasized self-governance and self-service of the society, which called for the citizens to be organized and interdependent instead of individualized and unconcerned. Ulrich Beck put up “individualization” to describe the hisitrical, social and structural trend of the society today. Yunxiang Yan used this theoretical paradigm to explain the Chinese social changes in the past 30 years - China started the process of individualization from 1949, got through two different stages, and finally yielded “striving individuals” today.People today became more like individualized “individuals”,they were indifferent about public affairs and left the neighborhood problems tanglesome and  unconcerned. However, it was not always the case, there were many efforts from both the government and the folk to construct the neighborhood and the public environment , Chuang Ye Hua Yuan was one of them. Though the effect of these efforts needs to be examined, the efforts themselves definitely tell something and were absolutely important for us to view this world and the social changing process comprehensively. From the perspective of Zygmunt Bauman(2001), the efforts to reconstruct community seemed hard and invalid. However, as long as the human beings are longing for the sense of belonging and security, as long as they desire love and caring, as long as they prefer to live in a concordant and warm environment, the efforts above will not stop and will never be worthless. 

See Also

Community Organizing


Bauman, Zygmunt. 2001. The Individualized Society.  Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hengxue Huang.(2009). GongGongJingJi GuanLi YanJiu. Beijing:Zhongguo Jingji Chubanshe. pp.55

Yunxiang Yan.2009.The Individualization Of Chinese Society. Oxford: Berg. pp.57-85,85-109,183-207

Yunxiang Yan. 2010. “The chinese path to individualization”,In The Brithish Journal of Sociology61(3): pp. 489-511

External Links


Lead image: "Old Residential Area in Shenzhen" Thomas Huff/Colby

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