Does China's Civil Service System Improve Government Performance? A Case Study of Education Bureau of Ningbo City

Zhiren Zhou, Haitao Yin, Feng Wang


Performance improvement sits at the heart of the study of public administration. Performance improvement requires performance measurement and relies heavily on effective management of human capital. This paper addresses both performance measurement and management of human capital in the context of China. China introduced its civil service system in 1993 with performance improvement as its ultimate goal. After years of implementation and practices, we attempt to make an overall assessment of the reform with a straightforward question “Has the civil service system improved government performance?” Taking the Education Bureau of Ningbo City as a case, our research design begins with efficiency measurement of the bureau and Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) is applied as the measurement tool. A comparison of agency performance before and after the introduction of the civil service system is carried out to obtain the basic judgment on the effects of the reform. Then seven contributing factors are ranked on the basis of structured focus-group interviews with civil service reform as one of them. It is found that limited efficiency gain was achieved in the Education Bureau and civil service reform made little impact on agency performance. Some theoretical explanations to those findings are provided. We hope that the study not only provides a case for assessment of the civil service reform against its stated goals, but also sheds light on the use of DEA method in efficiency measurement.

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Chinese Public Administration Review (ISSN 1539-6754, Online ISSN 2573-1483)  is published by the School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University.