Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process where community members directly decide how to spend public funds.  First introduced in the late 1990s in China, the process has been piloted in several Chinese cities, but the direct participation of citizens had been limited.

In spring 2016 we coordinated a study visit to New York City to give Chinese advocates of PB a chance to observe New York’s PB model in action. All residents over the age of 15, regardless of citizenship status, can both propose projects and vote on them. The Chinese observers also saw how local civil society plays a critical role in NYC’s process.

In early 2017, the Chinese observers drew on NYC’s model to advise two districts in Hainan province in implementing PB. Ultimately all local residents over the age of 15 were allowed to submit and vote on budget proposals.  Similar pilots are being implemented or considered in Jiangxi, Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces. 

Cover Photo "海口骑楼老街" by Kaurjmeb (