Deliberative participatory budgeting: a case study of Zeguo Town in China
journal contributionposted on 01.08.2019, 00:00 authored by Baogang HeBaogang He
The search for a better practice instrument of civic engagement has led to participatory budgeting and deliberative polling in recent years. Participatory budgeting stresses empowerment and citizens' struggle against the establishment and unequal social structures, whereas deliberative polling works within the system and focuses on improving democratic decision-making processes by applying credible social science methods. Often, these two processes are presented as being in conflict with each other, which is to the detriment of the search for best practice in deliberative governance. This paper develops a theoretical analysis of deliberative participatory budgeting which is distinguished from unrepresentative and non-deliberative but self-selected participatory budgeting; that is, it considers how the quality of participatory budgeting can be improved through deliberative polling. This theoretical analysis is backed by an empirical study of deliberative participatory budgeting in Zeguo Township, Zhejiang Province, China. It explores whether, how, and under what conditions it is possible to combine deliberative polling and participatory budgeting. It details four experiments and assesses the successes, failures, limitations, and problems of the experiments. The case of Zeguo offers scholars, activists, and officials lessons about how to pursue best deliberative practice in both authoritarian states and democratic societies.