As agents of the state, civil servants play a central role in public governance and socioeconomic development. In developing countries, an effective civil service pay system may provide strong incentives for better public service and rein in corruption, whereas poor remuneration can fuel corruption and discontent among civil servants.
Grappling to develop a well-functioning pay regime has challenged the PRC since its birth. Over the past decade, reforms implemented in the civil service pay system have been closely associated with legitimacy change (from an economy-based approach to welfare-based one), income distribution and central-local relations. However, these reforms have sparked a heated debate over their legitimacy, effectiveness and direction. By examining the complexities of this situation and the tug-of-war over remuneration among different players, this pioneering study deepens our understanding of the internal tensions with which China's reform process is fraught.