Prof. Liu Jianwen: the Construction of the Social Mechanism in the Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province

The key to promoting the Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin and, Hebei Province (Jing-Jin-Ji) is to break regional stereotypes. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei collaborative governance could make full use of non-governmental power to change the development concept of the local government from narrow interest to sharing interest through the construction of the social mechanism.

The Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province became a national strategy in 2014. The Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province includes infrastructure construction, industrial connection, environmental protection, and market integration. At present, an inter-governmental coordination mechanism on the collaborative development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province developing is taking shape, which includes the establishment of its leadership, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Province Joint Conference, etc. The collaboration among the local governments mainly depends on administration and laws, including administration settings, personnel arrangements, regulations, policy incentives, and so on. It is a kind of collaborative political mechanism: the main body of the collaboration is composed of all the governmental departments, while the regulations are controlled by the political resources. However, since the level of the development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei areas varies largely, the distribution of the political resources is not balanced. Moreover, the long-term segmentation of the local jurisdictional administrations is limiting the comprehensive political promotion of the Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province.

The Social Mechanism in the Regional Collaborative Development

From 1950 to 1998, the Dutch scholar Beugelsdijk and his colleagues made a cross-regional survey in 54 European regions. The survey helped discover that the cultivation and the development of social organizations are of significance to the promotion of the regional collaborative development. The social mechanism is an organizational resource used by industrial associations, chambers of commerce, foundations, charity groups and other social organizations. It is an important governance mechanism that encourages the participation in regional public affairs, preserves market order, reduces conflicts of interest, and optimizes the distribution of the regional resources by social mobilization, institutional supply, capital investment, and other means. Compared to the political mechanism, the body of the collaborative social mechanism is more diversified, and its authority is decentralized. When an equal collaborative relationship among different sides is established, the coerciveness caused by the orientation of the government can be avoided. At the same time, the Pareto Optimality can be achieved through negotiation and compromises to satisfy different groups’ interests. When the conflicts between the local interests and the productive factor mobility are hard to solve using legal or administrative means, the establishment of the social mechanism can provide a civil approach to the collaborative development.

First of all, the non-profit, volunteering, cross-regional, and social organizations are less influenced by the interests of the administration area and can be in charge of the organizational work for cross-administrative areas’ important events. For example, in the metropolitan area of New York, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) is mainly responsible for the comprehensive plan of the cross-administrative areas. RPA is composedof enterprises, citizens, and community leaders, and it promotes the optimal distribution of the economic resources in the region. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris promotes the economic, functional integration of the cities in the Parisian metropolitan area, coordinates the relationship between the government and the enterprises, releases the industrial information report, and guides the investments of the enterprises. The NGO Kansai Economic Federation has become an important platform and a core institution for the collaborative development of the cities in the Japanese region of Kansai. Using the characteristics of the social organizations mentioned above, many western scholars described the social mechanism by using the metaphors lubricant, bumper, and regulator of the regional economic integration. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that the key to the promotion of the Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin and, Hebei Province (Jing-Jin-Ji) is to break the mindset of regional stereotypes. In the Jing-Jin-Ji collaborative governance, the construction of the social mechanism takes advantage of citizens’ power to promote the development of the local government and change from narrow interest to sharing interest.

Secondly, the construction of the social mechanism can reduce the costs of the political coordination. From a macro perspective, two diseases are now affecting the development of Jing-Jin-Ji region: Hebei’s regional setback and stagnancy, and Beijing and Tianjin’s urban expansion. To some extent, these problems increase Government’s economic resource distribution problem. On the contrary, the social mechanism is targeting the areas where markets and the government are having troubles. Learning from the experiences of the three metropolitan areas’ economic integration(New York, Paris, and Kansai), many industrial associations are now promoting regional and industrial allocation plans and the implementation of environmental protection policies by guiding the investments of the enterprises and strengthening enterprises’ social responsibility and self-control. Many social organizations took up social management functions and services, reducing the pressure on governmental agencies. Moreover, some of the related organizations are assisting and supervising the government’s allocation of economic resources.

At last, the regional collaborative development should have social foundations. The regional development dissonance not only reflects the malfunction of the market and the government but is also a social failure. On the one hand, social malfunction refers to the deficiency of social justice and social self-governance. In the regional public affairs, there are many phenomena of social malfunction, such as Bystander Effect, Free-ride Effect, Proximity Effect, and Unworthy Law. The Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province requires the social groups and their members to reach agreements in many areas (for example, education, health, industrial relocation, industrial production restriction, traffic control, low-energy lifestyle, etc.). Without agreements,the collective action would be hard to carryon, and the effectsof the policy would be reduced.The social organizations show their deep ethical basis focusing on the ecological environment, social equality, sustainable development, and other topics. These organizations can turn the organizational values into individual values, then transform it into practice. The Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province requires the citizens to reach an agreement on regional and ideological consensus, and consciousness. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that Jing-Jin-Ji areas are close geographically, anthropologically, culturally and historically, which means that the areas can be fully integrated. Through publicity, mobilization, organization and other measures, the social groups can promote the idea of collaborative development into every aspect of daily life, strengthening the mass’ identification in the aspects of regional society, economy, and culture. On the other hand, social malfunction also means that the social organizations can’t regulate and supervise government and enterprise’s behaviors. This lack may lead to investment overheating, redundant construction, ecological crisis, the inefficiency of the regional policies, and other malfunctions of the government and the markets. Therefore, the construction of the social mechanism can also help to avoid the risks of government and market malfunctions during the development process of the Collaborative Development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province. From the perspective of the present academic research, the study on regional collaborative development mainly focuses on government and enterprises, so the importance of the social mechanism is not fully valued. Thus, to promote the regional collaborative development, it is still necessary to find solutions: how to encourage and guide the non-governmental cooperation, make full use of social forces to coordinate the local interests, and promote the synergistic regional development?

Feasible Paths to the Construction of the Social Mechanism

Firstly, to build a cross-regional administrative coordination mechanism it is necessary to absorb the present social organizations and create a good conditional and institutional space for the civil forces to participate in the coordinated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. In recent years, the economic and social organizations, including trade associations and chambers of commerce, of the economically developed and socially progressed regions, such as Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta, have played an important role in the promotion of local cooperation. Under the impetus of the social forces, the level of local cooperation is expanding day by day, and the means and modes of cooperation are becoming more and more diversified. A horizontal cooperative network between local governments as well as between government, enterprises and social organizations was formed. Therefore, the ability to form a stable and sustainable horizontal cooperative network is an important indicator of regional coordinated development. Although the social resources of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region are relatively rich, the proportion of the state-owned economy is too high. The local economic development belongs to the government-led model, so the participation of the social organizations is only partial. Therefore, local governments need to ensure the active and effective participation of the social organizations in the regional development and regional policies from the legal and institutional level, so to promote regional industrial development, local cooperation, and environmental protection in the cross-administrative areas.

Secondly, it is necessary to attach importance to the cultivation of economic societies, namely trade associations and chambers of commerce. To meet the needs of the regional economic development, the State Council General Office issued the Several Opinions on Accelerating the Reform and the development of Trade Associations and Chambers of Commerce. It clearly points out that “in the economically developed areas and the cities with advantages in industry, products, and markets, the local trade industries can be reorganized or transformed into regional trade associations by the law.” The promotion of the regional coordinated development requires the cultivation and the support of certain specific types of non-governmental organizations which know the position and the characteristics of the local development. In particular, the establishment of cross-regional socio-economic organizations should be encouraged. For example, according to the development plan of the West Coast Economic Zone, Fujian Province established several cross-regional social groups named straits which played an important role in the promotion of the coordinated development of the cross-strait economy. The Cross-strait Agriculture Communication and Collaboration Association is one example. Therefore, the promotion of the coordinated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region requires the creation of social groups named after Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region which will play the role of important regional socio-economic ties.

Thirdly, to construct social agencies, it is necessary to build platforms and stress the role of the social mechanism, using the experiences of Yangtze River Delta and Pan-Pearl River Delta. In these areas, the social groups organized some inter-regional coordination agencies, such as the Yangtze River Delta Economic Coordination Federation, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation Promotion Association, and the Pearl River Forum. These agencies effectively promoted the regional coordinated development from a social perspective.

Last but not least, it is crucial to specify the rational division of labor between the government and the social forces. The regional coordinated development is a dynamic and phased development process, divided into three stages: initial stage, advanced stage, and deepening stage. In general, the initial stage is mainly driven by the government, but, with the changes of coordination field and stages, the main body of the coordinated development will tend to be diversified. In the long run, more fields will be involved, and the support of social resources will be needed. In the process of the coordinated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the social mechanism is a useful complement to the market mechanism and the political mechanism in the regional economic integration. To promote the realization of regional communion interests, government and enterprises need to be a part of the cross-administrative affairs undertaken by the civil groups through joint authorization, purchase agreement, contract outsourcing, and other forms. In the Yangtze River Delta, the unified formulation and implementation of industrial standards, qualification authentication, and quality testing services are carried out by the industrial associations. The results are a higher cooperation efficiency and lower costs. This example fully illustrates the importance of the social mechanisms and its practical feasibility.

Resource: Chinese Social Sciences Today

Translated by Li Shujia and Shi Yuche

Proofread by Letizia Vallini

Nankai University

No.38 Tongyan Road, Jinnan District, Tianjin , P.R. China 300350

No.94 Weijin Road,  Nankai District, Tianjin, P.R.China  300071