When addressing administrative reform, many scholars have referred to the fact that governments confront multiple internal challenges such as fiscal stress, distrust of bureaucracy, and higher demands for public services (Peters and Savoie 1995). Externally, governments become more sensitive to global issues and tend to be more influenced by international environments (Garcia-Zamor and Khator 1994). Faced with internal and external challenges, governments seek new paradigms for governance (Ingraham and Romzek 1994) and often initiate administrative reform (AR) aimed at enhancing governmental performance and improving the administrative system through technological advances, managerial improvements, administrative innovations and continued enhancement of administrative capabilities (Caiden 1991).
Administrative reform and its diffusion among Western countries are well documented in the literature (Campbell and Peters 1988; Savoie 1994; Halligan 1996; Peters and Savoie 1995). However, studies are skewed toward Western countries and little attention has been paid to Asia. Even less attention has been paid to comparative studies on Asian administrative reform, even though many Asian countries have developed their own AR trajectories to improve public efficiency and productivity (Burns 1994; Zhang, De Guzman, and Reforma 1992). As many students of comparative public administration (CPA) understand, it is always a challenging task, both methodologically and theoretically, to examine a group of different countries (Aberbach and Rockman 1987; Heady 1996a; 1996b; Peters 1988; Peters 1996). It is an even more challenging and controversial task to develop a single comparative framework from which we can examine different countries.
This article attempts to fill a gap in the literature by examining Asian AR from a comparative perspective. First, we propose an exploratory theoretical framework, a Political Nexus Triad (PNT). PNT is an extended model, which adds civil society as the third dimension to the traditional politics-administration model. We suggest the PNT and its dynamic trajectory as a building block of the comparative study of Asian administrative reform. This is similar to the power interaction models in which Peters (1988) addresses the power interactions between politicians and bureaucrats.1 Second, we examine the conventional patterns of PNT for three Asian countries: China, Japan, and Korea. Third, we survey AR of the three countries, focusing on actors, contents and potential impacts to the new PNT. Finally, we discuss conclusions and comparisons