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International Journal of Libraries and Information Services

Editor-in-Chief: John, Nancy R. / Johnson, Ian M. / Larsen, Svend / Albright, Kendra

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The Political Economy of Public Library Development in post-1978 People's Republic of China

Liangzhi Yu1 / Jianye Xu2

1Department of Information Resource Management, The Business School, Nankai University, Tianjin, People's Republic of China

2Nanjing Library, People's Republic of China

Corresponding author: Dr. Liangzhi Yu. Department of Information Resource Management, The Business School, Nankai University, Tianjin, People's Republic of China, 300071. E-mail:

Mr. Jianye Xu is the deputy director of Nanjing Library, Jiangsu Province; he holds a master's degree from East China Normal University.

Citation Information: Libri. Volume 56, Issue 2, Pages 117–132, ISSN (Print) 0024-2667, DOI: 10.1515/LIBR.2006.117, December 2007

Publication History

Published Online:

The post-1978 economic reform in China created a new political economy, which, in turn, yielded sweeping effects on nearly all public institutions. While the transformation of the Chinese health care and education sectors has been fairly extensively explored and reported in the English literature, few studies have offered a thorough analysis of the change of public libraries. This paper attempts to fill the gap. After a brief introduction of the institutional framework of the Chinese public library system, the rest of the paper is devoted to examining the change of the system in the past quarter century with reference to the broad political economy of the post-1978 era. This analysis shows that although the new political economy has brought about considerable improvement to library infrastructure and management, it has also adversely affected public library development through the central government's reduction of subsidies for local needs, local governments' pragmatic approach to economic growth, the absence of effective monitoring over local governments' commitment to public library provision and the erosion of the public service ethos by the market ideology.

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