Introduction to the Special Issue on Comparative Chinese/American Public Administration


Marc Holzer is the dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University–Newark, where he is a Board of Governors Professor. He is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Chinese Public Administration Review. He has published more than 100 books, monographs, chapters and articles. He is a member of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Mengzhong Zhan is a research professor and director of the Chinese executive master of public management program in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park. He is widely published in the area of public administration, has won awards for his work, and has written and translated books in both the United States and China. He is co-chair of ASPA's Chinese Public Administration Section and cofounder and managing editor of the Chinese Public Administration Review.


In the field of public administration practice, China has a history of several thousand years, whereas the United States has a much shorter history of hundreds of years of governance. In terms of the scholarly development of public administration in China, the roots of those intellectual resources can be traced far back, to Confucius’s ideology of governance and the ancient development of a civil service system some 2,000 years ago. In terms of the systematic development of public administration as an independent subject of learning, however, the United States has been a leader worldwide. Public administration as a discipline in the United States dates back to the late nineteenth century, with extensive scholarly research and publications in the early twentieth century (Follett 1926; Goodnow 1900; Taylor 1912; Weber 1922; White 1926). In the Chinese context, although there were occasional studies of public administration in the first half of the twentieth century, systematic study was deferred until the middle of the 1980s. They were only truly continued following the official launch of master of public administration degree programs at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In this respect, China was a latecomer, and Chinese scholars almost always date the study and scholarship in this field to about 1980. Over the past eighty years or so, the United States has established more than 200 MPA and related programs, while China has founded 100 MPA programs in just the past eight years. Recognizing the urgent need for MPA training, China is trying to catch up to the demand for social development and societal transition. Considering that China has a population of 1.3 billion, compared to a population of 300 million in the United States, it looks as if there is great potential for China to expand its MPA programs.