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Song Zheren


Zheren Song received his BA in political science from Fudan University (2009) and his MA in international affairs from University of California, San Diego (2015), and he will receive his PhD in government and public administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2021. He has obtained solid training in political science and qualitative and quantitative research methods. His research interests focus on rural governance and state-society relations. In the past few years, he has conducted in-depth field work in more than ten villages in the east coast of China and interviewed dozens of rural cadres, social and economic elites, and ordinary peasants. Currently, his study focuses on the transformation of rural social network and how it changes the power structure in Chinese villages and affects the pattern of rural public service provision.



Hyperlink to ResearchGate: Zheren Song (


Expansive Social Network, Brokers and Public Service Provision in Rural China

The provision of public services is crucial for rural governance and development in developing countries. As the largest developing country in the world, China has traditionally relied on grassroots party-state organs including village committees and Communist Party branches for the delivery of public services. However, under the market reforms and urbanization that hollow out Chinese villages, these grassroots party-state organs commonly suffer limited resources and demonstrate weak incentives and capabilities to implement policies that promote the welfare of peasants. Meanwhile, the increasing demographic mobility between the countryside and urban areas has profoundly changed the social network structure in rural communities and created room for new social actors to contribute to rural governance. To understand the changing mode of rural public goods provision under marketization and urbanization, this research proposes a new theoretical framework centered on expansive social network (ESN) and brokers to explain rural public goods provision. ESN is defined as the transboundary social network that incorporates both members living in rural villages (as the core) and members emigrating to urban areas (as the periphery) and bonds them by interpersonal ties such as kinship and social interactions. Brokers are defined as the intermediary people or social organizations that link the core and peripheral network clusters and facilitate the transmission of resources and information within the network. Through comparative case studies based on in-depth field research in multiple villages and statistical analysis of national survey data on labor mobility and community services, we find that those villag es with vibrant ESN and active brokers tend to provide services more effectively in response to villagers’ needs. Therefore, we argue that such brokerage through expansive networks enhances input into rural development, empowers peasants in collective actions, and improves the provision of public services.

Key Words: brokers; China; expansive social network; public service provision; rural governance


Affiliation: Chinese University of Hong Kong