Bingqin Li and Yongmei Zhang[1]


We examine the role of area-based competitions and awards in motivating local government investment in, and provision of, public services. We compare these policy tools with other motivation models such as consumer choice and targeting/benchmarking. We argue that area-based competition is particularly useful in two aspects: motivating local authorities, and enhancing public awareness. It is especially useful in policy areas related to improving the public environment. The experience of China in organising competition projects to improve public hygiene provides an example of how this can be achieved. A case study of Xining City, Qinghai Province is used to illustrate the roles and limitations of the approach.


The authors of this paper would like to thank Mr. Yongji Zhang from the Office of Qinghai Provincial Government for his general support during our fieldwork.


Adinolfi, P. 1998. “Performance-related pay for health service professionals: the Italian experience.” Health services management research: an official journal of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration/HSMC, AUPHA 11:211.

Arrowsmith, J., S. French, M. Gilman, and R. Richardson. 2001. “Performance-related pay in health care.” Journal of health services research & policy 6:114.

Balsas, C. J. L. (2004) ‘City Centre Regeneration in the Context of the 2001 European Capital of Culture in Porto, Portugal’, Local Economy, vol 19, no 4: 396-410.

Barnes, M., and A. Walker. 1996. “Consumerism versus empowerment: a principled approach to the involvement of older service users.” Policy &# 38; Politics 24:375-393.

Beales, H., M. B. Mazis, S. C. Salop, and R. Staelin. 1981. “Consumer search and public policy.” The Journal of Consumer Research 8:11-22.

Bevan, G. and Hood, C. (2006) ‘What’s Measured Is What Matters: Targets and Gaming in the English Public Health Care System’, Public Administration, vol 84, no 3: 517-38.

Birney, M. 2014. “Decentralization and Veiled Corruption under China’s ‘Rule of Mandates’,” World Development: 53, 55–67.

Boyne, G. A. (1996) ‘Competition and Local Government: A Public Choice Perspective’, Urban Studies, vol 33, no 4: 703-21.

Bruns, B., et al. (2004) ‘From Voice to Empowerment: Rerouting Irrigation Reform in Indonesia’, in Alex Bolding ed. The Politics of Irrigation Reform: Contested Policy Formulation and Implementation in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, chap. 5, Ashgate Publishing: 145-165.

Buchan, J., and M. Thompson. 1993. “Pay and nursing performance.” Health Manpower Management 19:29-29.

Burgess, S., B. Croxson, P. Gregg, and C. Propper. 2001. The intricacies of the relationship between pay and performance for teachers: do teachers respond to performance related pay schemes?: University of Bristol, Centre for Market and Public Organisation.

Channa, A. and J.P. Faguet. 2012. “Decentralization of Health and Education in Developing Countries: A Quality-Adjusted Review of the Empirical Literature.”  LSE/STICERD Working Paper No. EOPP 38.

Chen, L. and Guo, Y. (2007) ‘Four Steps to Regulate Non-Taxation Collections by Grass-Root Authorities’, China State Finance (zhongguo caizheng), no 9: 34-36.

Croxson, B., and A. Atkinson. 2001. Incentives in secondary schools: the impact of the Performance Threshold: University of Bristol, Centre for Market and Public Organisation.

Dai, L. and Wang, W. (2007) ‘Some Suggestions on the Campaigns for National Hygienic Cities (Guanyu Woshi Chuangjian Guojia Weisheng Cheng Huodong De Jidian Jianyi) ‘, Daqing Social Science (Daqing Shehui Kexue), no 4: 54-59.

Dong, J. (2006) ‘The Campaign against Malpractice Pointing at Competition Awards (Jiufengjian Zhizhi Pingbi Dabiao)’, Outlook News Weekly, no 20:  15-17.

Dowding, K., and P. John. 2008. “The Three Exit, Three Voice and Loyalty Framework: A Test with Survey Data on Local Services.” POLITICAL STUDIES-OXFORD- 56:288.

Evans, G. and Shaw, P. (2004) ‘The Contribution of Culture to Regeneration in the UK: A Review of Evidence’, London: Department for Culture Media and Sport Retrieved August, 5: 4708-8386.

Faguet, J.P. 2004. “Why So Much Centralization? A Model of Primitive Centripetal Accumulation.”  STICERD DEDPS No.43, London School of Economics.

Faguet, J.P. 2000. “Decentralization and Local Government Performance: Improving Public Service Provision in Bolivia”, Revista de Economía del Rosario, 3(1): 127-176.

Faguet, J.P. and Z. Ali. 2009. “Making Reform Work: Institutions, Dispositions and the Improving Health of Bangladesh.” World Development. 37: 208–218.

Faguet, J.P. and F. Sánchez. 2014. “Decentralization and Access to Social Services in Colombia.” Public Choice, 160(1-2): 227-249. DOI 10.1007/s11127-013-0077-7.

Faguet, J.P. and M. Shami. 2008. “Fiscal Policy and Spatial Inequality in Latin America and Beyond.”  World Bank Policy Research Working Paper.

Faguet, J.P. and F.B. Wietzke. 2006. “Social Funds and Decentralization: Optimal Institutional Design.” Public Administration and Development, 26(4): 303-315.

Flynn, N. 1986. “Performance measurement in public sector services.” Policy &# 38; Politics 14:389-404.

Forest, Virginie. 2008. “Performance-related pay and work motivation: theoretical and empirical perspectives for the French civil service.” International review of administrative sciences 74:325-339.

Fotaki, M. (1999) ‘The Impact of Market Oriented Reforms on Choice and Information: A Case Study of Cataract Surgery in Outer London and Stockholm’, Social Science & Medicine, vol 48, no 10: 1415-32.

Frey, B. S. (2007) ‘Awards as Compensation’, European Management Review, vol 4, no 1: 6-14.

Frey, B. S., and R. Jegen. 2001. “Motivation crowding theory.” Journal of Economic Surveys 15:589-611.

Frey, B. S., and F. Oberholzer-Gee. 1997. “The cost of price incentives: An empirical analysis of motivation crowding-out.” The American economic review:746-755.

Glennerster, H. (1991) ‘Quasi-Markets for Education?’ The Economic Journal, vol 101, no 408: 1268-76.

Greve, B. 2009. “Can Choice in Welfare States Be Equitable?” Social Policy & Administration 43:543-556.

Grimshaw, D., et al. (2002) ‘Going Privately: Partnership and Outsourcing in UK Public Services’, Public Administration, vol 80, no 3: 475-502.

Hirschman, A. O. 1970. Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states: Harvard Univ Pr.

—. 1980. “” Exit, Voice, and Loyalty”: Further Reflections and a Survey of Recent Contributions.” The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly. Health and Society 58:430-453.

John, P., et al. (2004) ‘The Bidding Game: Competitive Funding Regimes and the Political Targeting of Urban Programme Schemes’, British Journal of Political Science, vol 34, no 3: 405-28.

Knight, J. and Li, S. (1999) ‘Fiscal Decentralization: Incentives, Redistribution and Reform in China’, Oxford Development Studies, vol 27, no 1: 5-32.

Kouzmin, A., E. Loffler, H. Klages, and N. Korac-Kakabadse. 1999. “Benchmarking and performance measurement in public sectors.” International Journal of Public Sector Management 12:121-44.

Le Grand, J. 2006a. “The Blair Legacy? Choice and competition in public services.” in Transcript of Public Lecture. London School of Economics: 21 February 2006:

Le Grand, J. (1991) ‘Quasi-Markets and Social Policy’, The Economic Journal, vol 101, no 408: 1256-67.

Le Grand, J.  2006b. “Equality and choice in public services.” Social Research: An International Quarterly 73:695-710.

Le Grand, J. 2007. The other invisible hand: delivering public services through choice and competition: Princeton Univ Pr.

Li, B. and An, X. (2009) ‘Migration and Small Towns in China–Power Hierarchy and Resource Allocation ‘, IIED Working Paper, Forthcoming.

Li, S. (1994) ‘Overcoming the Habits Of “Waiting, Depending and Begging” And Identifying Resources to Develop (Kefu “Dengkaoyao” Ziligengsheng Qiufazhan)’, Public Finance, no 10, 27-28.

Liu, X., and A. Mills. 2005. “The effect of performance-related pay of hospital doctors on hospital behaviour: a case study from Shandong, China.” Human Resources for Health 3.

Mansuri, G., and V. Rao. 2004. “Community-based and-driven development: A critical review.” The World Bank Research Observer 19:1.

Marsden, D. 2000. “Teachers Before the Threshold.” CEP Discussion Papers.

Marsden, D., and R. Belfield. 2007. “Pay for performance where output is hard to measure: the case of performance pay for school teachers.” Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations 15:1-37.

Marsden, D., and S. French. 1998. What a performance Performance related pay in the public services: Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

Marsden, D., and R. Richardson. 1992. “Motivation and performance related pay in the public sector: a case study of the inland revenue.”

Marsden, D., and R. Richardson.  1994. “Performing for pay? The effects of merit pay on motivation in a public service.” British Journal of Industrial Relations 32:243-261.

Martin, S. (2000) ‘Implementing ‘best Value’: Local Public Services in Transition’, Public Administration, vol 78, no 1: 209-27.

Matosevic, T., et al. (2008) ‘Motivation and Commissioning: Perceived and Expressed Motivations of Care Home Providers’, Social Policy & Administration, vol 42, no 3: 228-47.

McGuire, R. A. et al. (1987) ‘The Determinants of the Choice between Public and Private Production of a Publicly Funded Service’, Public Choice, vol 54, no 3: 211-30.

Patriotic Hygienic Campaign Committee of Qinghai Province (2008) ‘Notice on Offering Further Help to Xining to Prepare for the National Hygienic City Campaign (Guanyu Jingyibu Peihe Xiningshi Zuohao Chuangjian Guojia Weisheng Chengshi Gongzuo De Tongzhi) ‘, Qinghaiwei[2008] No. 12,  23/09/2008.

Propper, C., and D. Wilson. 2003. “The use and usefulness of performance measures in the public sector.” Oxford review of economic policy 19:250.

Ravallion, Martin. 2007. “How Relevant is Targeting to the Success of an Antipoverty Program?” SSRN eLibrary.

Richards, G. and J Wilson (2006) “Developing creativity in tourist experiences: A solution to the serial reproduction of culture”, Tourism Management, vol 27, no 6:1209-1223.

Sainio, C., E. Eriksson, and S. Lauri. 2001. “Patient participation in decision making about care: The cancer patient’s point of view.” Cancer Nursing 24:172.

Sassatelli, M. (2002) ‘Imagined Europe: The Shaping of a European Cultural Identity through Eu Cultural Policy’, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol 5, No 4: 435-451

Scannell, P. 1989. “Public service broadcasting and modem public life.” Media, Culture and Society 11:135-166.

Shen, R. (2004) ‘Alternatives to Improve the Ability of Public Provision by the Government (Tigao Zhengfu Gonggong Fuwu Nengli De Xuanze)’, China Public Administration (zhongguo xingzheng guanli), no 223: 29-32.

Sjoholt, P. (1999) ‘Culture as a Strategic Development Device: The Role of ‘European Cities of Culture’, with Particular Reference to Bergen’, European Urban and Regional Studies, vol 6, no 4: 339-47

State Council PRC (1989) ‘“Decisions on Improving the Work for Patriotic Hygiene” (Guanyu Jiaqiang Aiguo Weisheng Yundong De Jueding)’, State Council (1989), Document No. 22.

The National Patriotic Committee PRC (1989) ‘Notice on the National Hygienic City Campaign (Guanyu Kaizhan Chuangjian Guojia Weisheng Chengshi Huodong De Tongzhi)’, 2360148903,

Williams, J., and A. Rossiter. 2004. “Choice: the evidence.” London: Social Market Foundation.

Wong, C. P. W. (2000) ‘Central-Local Relations Revisited: the 1994 Tax-Sharing Reform and Public Expenditure Management in China’, China Perspectives, no 31: 52-63.

Xi X., Fan L., and Deng, X., “Public Environment Awareness in China: An Analysis of the Results of Public Surveys,” Project report, National Research Centre for Science and Technology for Development, Ministry of Science and Technology, Beijing, December 1998.

Xining Communist Party Committee Office (2008) ‘Xining Communiqués’, 21.

Xining Communique.”2008.”Xining Communist Party Committee Office.

Xining Government PRC (2008) ‘Statistics for the Funding of 2008 Hygienic City Campaign (2008 Nian Chuangwei Gongzuo Quanshi Zijin Touru Qingkuang Tongji)’, unpublished.

Zhang, L. Y. (1999) ‘Chinese Central-Provincial Fiscal Relationships, Budgetary Decline and the Impact of the 1994 Fiscal Reform: An Evaluation’, China Quarterly, No.157: 115-41.

Zhang, X. (2006) ‘Fiscal Decentralization and Political Centralization in China: Implications for Growth and Inequality’, Journal of Comparative Economics, no 34: 713-26.

Zhang, Y, and B Li. 2011a. “Motivating service improvement with award and competition: hygienic city campaigns in China.” Environment and urbanization 23(1):41-56.