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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

6 - Infiltration


Many autocratic states cultivate networks of informants and operatives who have responsibility over small local cells. This chapter shows how the Chinese state has constructed a modern system of infiltration organized around sub-village cells. This decentralized system of informal control enables local officials to closely monitor local society. Case study and quantitative evidence show how village cell leaders help local officials implement policies including land confiscation and family planning quotas. Hiring more informants and putting them in charge of smaller cells, while costly, increases compliance with state policies. This strategy of infiltration is largely a substitute for cultivating and co-opting civil society.