The Chinese central government has recognized that village–government networks are promising for the sustainable development of rural villages. Though many local governments tend to deploy various hands-on or hand-off governance tools to influence the sustainable development of village-governance networks, the number of villages successfully achieving “good governance” is still rare. Therefore, this study empirically elaborates on the application of three classic tools of governance networks, analyzing how leaders of local government and village communities influence the effectiveness of these tools. The data were collected by snowball interviews, careful observations, and documentary analysis in Xiaonan village, a representatively successful case of rural-village governance networks in China. We detected that governance tools are often inadequately used and under-development in Chinese rural-village governance networks, accompanying a strong interaction between the effectiveness of tools and leadership. Excellent leadership is necessary for a successful rural-village governance network and its scaling-up.
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