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This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of local governance in China, and offers original analysis of key factors underpinning trends in this field drawing on the expertise of scholars both inside and outside China. It explores and analyzes the dynamic interaction and collaboration among multiple governmental and non-governmental actors and social sectors with an interest in the conduct of public affairs to address horizontal challenges faced by the local government, society, economy, and civil community and considers key issues such as governance in urban and rural areas, the impact of technology on governance and related issues of education, healthcare, environment and energy.

As the result of a global and interdisciplinary collaboration of leading experts, this Handbook offers a cutting-edge insight into the characteristics, challenges and trends of local governance and emphasizes the promotion of good governance and democratic development in China.



Chapter 1. Introduction: Local Governance in China—Past, Present, and Future

As China celebrates its 40th anniversary, in 2018, of the reform and opening-up, it is an opportune moment to examine China’s development characteristics from the perspective of local governance. From 1978 to 2018, the main focal point of China’s reform and opening-up has been the decentralization from the government to the market and the society, as well as the decentralization from the central government to local governments. China’s local governments, which directly undertake local economic development, the provision of public services, and social functions, carry out the policies of the central government and perform de facto governmental functions, as well as offer key insights into to Chinese governmental operation. In China, a local governance system—which gives priority to local governments and includes both market participation and social coordination—is taking shape and playing an increasingly important role in national governance. It’s worth pointing out that China’s reform and opening-up develops along with the global local governance reform, responding to negative effects of globalization in local economic and social development. It plays a key role in a global multilevel governance since it directly deals with a multitude of public issues and services. This shows that local governance in contemporary China, which develops along with globalization, constitutes a key component of the global local governance reform and reflects the application results of governance theories in China.

Jianxing Yu

Governance in the Chinese Context


Chapter 2. The Applicability of Governance Theory in China: A Novel Approach

As an influential theory of social science, governance theory has played a prominent role in development studies over the past two decades. Because this theory originates from the Western society, Chinese academics have disputed over its applicability in China, which has essentially different conditions in democracy, rule of law, and civil society from the Western society. It is argued in this chapter that Chinese scholars should neither take its applicability for granted based on the strong solicitude for the reality of China nor conclude that the governance theory is not applicable in China based on rigid structural analysis. Jessop’s Strategic-Relational Approach (1996) presents an enlightenment of practical value that actors’ choice of strategies and actions needs investigating based on an objective understanding of the structural background. Under the existing political-administrative system of fragmented authoritarianism, China’s civil society has already developed into “a dynamic force outside the state system,” entitled to certain participation in public affairs. Such a novel understanding is of great significance in developing both the study and practice of governance in China.

Jianxing Yu, Shizong Wang

Chapter 3. Governance Models and Policy Framework: Some Chinese Perspectives

Governance systems not only reflect the political and constitutional arrangements in different countries, including the administrative, legal, and regulatory frameworks, but also the underlying economic forces, including institutions, policy instruments, and information flows. The interactions are important, as is the sequencing of measures. The tendency of international experts and agencies to assume that more junior levels of government in China behave as they might in the US, often leads to inappropriate analyses and policy prescriptions. Similarly, focusing on the political or administrative aspects in isolation from the economic underpinnings may be a mistake.

Ehtisham Ahmad

Chapter 4. The Critical Role of Local Governance in China’s Political System

Why and how do the tiers of local government, and the modes of governance evolving around them, occupy a critical role in China’s authoritarian state structure? This chapter approaches this question by looking at one of the core functions embedded in local governance arrangements: policy implementation. The ability of continuously safeguarding a critical degree of output effectiveness amidst ever-increasing complexity and challenges is widely regarded as a pillar of state capacity and a symbol of regime adaptability in contemporary China. In fact, governance research needs a local perspective to examine ultimate policymaking where the state ‘meets the people’ and where policy outcomes become immediately relevant. And it is at the local level that the political system seems most flexible and adaptive.

Anna L. Ahlers, Thomas Heberer, Gunter Schubert

Chapter 5. New Agenda for the Study of Chinese Governance

Governance theory originated in the West, but China may well be the biggest “consumer” of this theory. Quite a few Chinese scholars have high expectations of this theory, either in delivery of public services or in political progress. Since the 1990s, public governance has undergone a distinct shift from centralized government to pluralistic cooperation. Moreover, the term governance has attained universal recognition because it can be applied in myriad domains and in any sense. Even within academic communities, there has been a long-existing controversy regarding the understanding of governance and the applicability of governance theory in China. After the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Central Government officially employed the modern state governance system, the modernization of governance capacity, and social governance, which have contributed to the discord between official discourse and academic concept. All of these are a fair reflection of core contradictions between governance and state building and between state governance and social governance in contemporary China. Future research on Chinese governance may need to revolve around these core contradictions. This chapter attempts to review major research progress and disputes after the introduction of governance theory into China, reflect on the dilemma between state governance and social governance in China, and ultimately propose the research agenda of Chinese governance.

Jianxing Yu, Shizong Wang

Local Government


Chapter 6. Mapping the Progress of Local Government Innovation in Contemporary China

As a key variable in explaining economic and social development in China, local government innovation has attracted considerable attention in the studies of Chinese government and politics. The previous research has mostly focused on two forms of local government innovation: “spontaneous exploration” and “top-down experimentation”. Since the 18th National Congress of CPC, spontaneous exploration has been restricted in terms of scope, range and possibility; however, there emerges a new form of innovation different from spontaneous exploration and top-down experimentation – “seeking approval”. This new form has been empirically demonstrated by Hunan, Shandong, Shanxi, Zhejiang provinces and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and is likely to become a new trend of local government innovation in China. As a hybrid model of spontaneous exploration and top-down experimentation, “seeking approval” brings the informal interaction between local and upper-level governments into formal government process, and it is a possible path for positive interaction of “top-level design” and “local exploration”. It may further distinguish the authoritative boundary of different levels of governments in practice and restructure a new vertical intergovernmental relationship. That is to say, the allocation of government power would be based on the distribution of responsibility, centralizing and (or) decentralizing power as the responsibilities go.

Jianxing Yu, Biao Huang

Chapter 7. Central-Local Relations in China

As China is a great power with a large population, area, and gaps in regional development, how to deal with the relationship between the central and local governments has bothered rulers for a long time and attracted the attention of scholars in the field of political science and public management. In general, the central and local relations refer to the basic ones of power and allocation of resources vertically in the state system (Jing et al. 2016: 185). China’s Constitution describes the division of authority between the central and local state organs as follows: “to follow the principle of sticking to the leadership of the central government and giving full play to the initiative and enthusiasm of local governments”. China is characterized by centralization, but from the practical point of view, China’s central and local relations appear more complex.

Xufeng Zhu

Chapter 8. Local Cadres

This chapter examines the function, role, and administration of local cadres. Here, the term “local cadres” refers particularly to officials at the county (city), township, and village levels. The chapter is structured as follows: first, China’s cadre system, in general, is briefly explained. Second, the discretionary power of county governments is examined. We then consider the role of three levels of officials: county, town and township, and village cadres. In addition, we introduce the analytical concept of “strategic groups” (SGs) to illustrate how to capture local cadres and their behavior from a theoretical perspective. Finally, we deal with the evaluation of cadres’ performance by superior bodies and the role of policy piloting at the local level.

Thomas Heberer

Chapter 9. China’s Developmental State in Transition: In Light of the East Asian Experiences

In the second half of 2016, a heated debate attracted widespread attention in China. Two eminent economists, Prof. Justin Yi-Fu Lin, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, and Prof. Wei-Ying Zhang, former Dean of the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, thoroughly debated the effectiveness of industrial policy (reports). Putting this debate in a larger context, it originates from the growing concerns with China’s development strategy. Looking back, China’s economic success has greatly benefited from its heavy state intervention. But looking forward, China is likely to be caught in the “middle-income trap,” given the slowdown in growth rates and draining in production factors in recent years. So, shall China stick to its old state-led development strategy (Lin’s suggestion) or shift to the market-enhancing approach (Zhang’s point)?

Wei Chen, Shu Keng

Chapter 10. The Behavioral Logic and Institutional Basis of Chinese Local Developmental Government

In China, local government is characterized as developmental government as they consider promoting regional economic growth as their main target after 1978. Such behavioral patterns cannot be adequately explained by theories of “Fiscal Federalism with Chinese Characteristics” and “Decentralized Authoritarianism.” The dominance of fiscal revenue maximization on the behaviors of local governments does not suggest that a decentralized financial system is a necessary condition for the formation of a local developmental government. After decentralization in the 1980s, the horizontal accountability system did not have effective control over the behaviors of local governments, whereas the vertical accountability system with the core of personnel power also has obvious limitations. Due to information asymmetry and other reasons, the central government hardly had the infrastructure power of shaping the behavioral pattern of the local government. Both the defects of the horizontal accountability system and the limitation of the vertical accountability system have propelled the maximization of fiscal revenue to become the dominant logic guiding the behaviors of local government, and have led to their selective fulfillment of their functions.

Jianxing Yu, Xiang Gao

Civil Society Organizations and Mass Media


Chapter 11. The Development and Prospects of Business Association Since 1978

A wide variety of nonprofit organizations mushroomed during the global “associational revolution” in the 1970s and 1980s (Salarmon et al. 2002, p. 4) and China was no exception. Since China’s reform and opening up in 1978, its government has gradually loosened the control over the society, allowing some civil society organizations to develop under its supervision. Under such circumstances, business associations revived along with the booming economy in China and grew into a force in civil society that could not be ignored. Their influence over Chinese economic development, industry, and market governance, and even social governance, is increasing. Therefore, it makes great sense to look back and study the history of business associations in China—right from the start of reform and opening up—understand the background, and locate the impetus of their development, as it will no doubt inform us about the relationship between China’s social organizations and the government.

Jun Zhou, Xiaocui Zhao

Chapter 12. The Development of Charitable Organizations in China Since Reform and Opening-Up and a New Layout for State-Society Relations

This chapter briefly straightens out the development of China’s social organizations since the reform and opening-up and the corresponding boom of charities. It then focuses on the newly emerged social organizations—charitable organizations brought about by the newly issued Charity Law in 2016. With the implementation of the Charity Law and the development of charitable organizations, a new state-society system has been formulated. This new system, based on the Internet as the platform, has three characteristics, including information transparency, social regulation, and charitable big data. Social organizations in China have entered a new era with charitable organizations as the major players. There is a new layout for state-society relations, which is based on charity and social values playing the dominant role, and collaboration between social organizations and the market has been set up.

Ming Wang, Shuoyan Li

Chapter 13. The Role of Mass Media in Reshaping Local Governance and Its Limitations

This chapter aims to discuss the potential of mass media, especially social media, for reshaping the mode of local governance in China by examining how social media prevalence influences local government responsiveness to online public inquiries and online civic engagement in 31 provincial-level administrative divisions in China. It first introduces mass media as an indispensable part of governance by briefly reviewing the social function of mass media. Afterward, it focuses on how social media can afford the interactions between local governments, including local governmental agencies and officials, and various social actors in the process of local governance in China. Through the analysis of the aggregate data regarding social media prevalence, local government responsiveness, and civic engagement in 31 provincial-level administrative divisions in China, the results show that social media in general contributes to local government responsiveness to online public inquiries and online civic engagement. Specifically, local governmental agencies tend to respond to public inquiries more actively than local government officials on social media, and citizens tend to discuss local affairs more frequently with local governmental agencies than with local government officials on social media. The findings indicate the promising role of social media in improving local government responsiveness and advancing civic engagement but reveal that local government officials’ underuse of social media might constrain the development of good local governance in China. It concludes with an outlook into the future of digitalized local governance in China.

Fei Wu, Qing Huang

Grassroots Governance


Chapter 14. Villagers’ Self-Governance in Rural China

Grassroots self-governance has a long history in rural China. The currently implemented villagers’ self-governance system was established after the abolishment of the people’s commune system in 1978. It is in nature a grassroots governance system, which enables rural residents to directly engage in public affairs. Being of modern democratic significance, villagers’ self-governance has been recognized by relevant laws of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). And its implementation paves the way for rural residents to exercise their democratic rights and for the Chinese government to organize its rural society. Since its establishment, villagers’ self-governance has experienced continuous expansion and deepening. Accordingly, the study of villagers’ self-governance has shifted from “value-institution paradigm” to “form-condition paradigm.” As the rural society changes, villagers’ self-governance is going to exhibit new features during its development process.

Yong Xu

Chapter 15. The Changing Institutional Space Regarding Roles and Behavior of Village Leaders: An Evolution from Villagers’ Autonomy to the Power List

The rural society in China has undergone dramatic changes in the past four decades since the implementation of reform and opening-up. These changes are reflected in width, depth, and disparity. Width refers to the fact that they cover a wide range of aspects, such as politics, economy, society, culture, and mentality. Depth refers to the fact that a suite of factors, including the market economy, industrialization, urbanization, population flow, and the Internet, alter the way that villagers make a living and the physical configuration of rural areas in a fundamental manner. Disparity refers to the fact that changes in width and depth display a degree of differences in speed and pattern in different areas as well as the structural difference in the process of resource reallocation (many villages may well vanish on the horizon).

Yuejin Jing, Lina Zhang

Chapter 16. The Unfulfilled Promise of Collaborative Governance: The Case of Low-Income Housing in Jiangsu

In this chapter, we explore the development of urban community governance in China, specifically the interaction of local government, social organizations, community, and citizens in urban community governance. To explore this interaction, we selected the case of collaborative governance in urban housing, because by the 2000s the cost of housing was one of the top concerns of urban residents across the country. Based on evidence from affordable housing (AH) policy in Jiangsu, we find that the state continues to dominate the policy process. Despite state rhetoric encouraging collaborative governance, non-state actors (NSAs), such as businesses and community organizations, tend to be excluded from AH policymaking and implementation. We suggest several ways that NSAs could be involved to improve AH policy in the future.

Kerry Ratigan, Jessica C. Teets

Citizen Engagement


Chapter 17. “Orderly Political Participation” in China

This chapter provides an in-depth examination of Chinese “orderly political participation” so as to develop an understanding of how political participation in China is developed, regulated, and governed, how various forms of political participation function, and the critical issues that political participation currently faces. It selects and examines the three official-sanctioned forms of political participation, that is, village elections, consultative and deliberative forums, and participatory budgeting (PB). It also discusses increasingly citizen-initiated political spaces or non-sanctioned forms of political participation. Finally it briefly investigates the interaction and conflict between the official and citizen forms of political participation and speculates on the future development of political participation in China.

Baogang He

Chapter 18. Lobbying of Private Business Associations in Local China: Targets, Strategies, and Influence

There is growing recognition that business lobbying is an integral part of the policymaking process in China at both the local and national levels. The existing research primarily focuses on the lobbying of large-sized enterprises or state-level business associations in China by taking advantage of Guanxi or the relationship to pursue interests, whereas it is less concerned about the lobbying practice of local business associations that represent private small and medium-sized enterprises. This chapter argues that local business associations established and supported by private enterprises have diversified lobbying targets, approaches and strategies. Based on 146 survey questionnaires completed by business associations at Zhejiang province and Jiangsu province, this article finds that local and private business associations in the areas of vibrant private economy show initiative in lobbying, employ diversified lobbying approaches and strategies to target the Party and government agencies, adopt legitimate channels, and produce a great influence on local policies. Compared with the singularity and passivity of state-level business associations, the private business associations show pluralistic and institutionalized in lobbying at local level. Limited political resources and representative interests of privately-owned enterprises produce the above lobbying characteristics of private business associations. It concludes by discussing how the organizational and institutionalized lobbying is being developed among private enterprises in local China.

Yongdong Shen, Jianxing Yu

Chapter 19. Citizen Action and Policy Change

Chinese citizens are becoming more conscious of their citizenship rights. As more and more Chinese citizens are involved in different stages of the decision-making process, this is changing how decisions are made. Citizen participation has led to more “scientific” policy decisions and better implementation.

Yanling He

Chapter 20. Selective Use of Political Opportunity: A Case of Environmental Protest in Rural China

Political opportunity refers to the “dimensions of the political environment” within which movement participants evaluate how their collective action can achieve their goals (Tarrow 1994). The structure of political opportunity, as McAdam (1996, p. 27) has suggested, includes four major components: increasing or decreasing openness in institutionalized political systems, increasing or decreasing instability in the alignment of government elites, changing levels of elite support for collective action, and the capacity of the government to contain collective action.

Yanhua Deng, Jonathan Benney

Internet Governance


Chapter 21. Governing by the Internet: Local Governance in the Digital Age

In what ways has the expansion of the Internet transformed local governance in China? Through analysis of over 2000 leaked official emails from a district-level Internet propaganda office, this chapter finds that the Internet has served more as a tool to enhance control rather than to improve governance at the local level. In particular, local authorities have prioritized Internet commentating tasks assigned from upper levels while keeping a close watch on negative publicity of both national and local problems. Their occasional responses to online complaints are often more likely meant to satisfy superiors and pacify the public rather than to address citizens’ concerns. Such a “ruling by the Internet” strategy may bring short-term gains such as preserving social stability on the surface but may harm the regime in the long run with accumulated social dissatisfaction.

Rongbin Han, Linan Jia

Chapter 22. Internet Governance in China: A Content Analysis

Using content analysis, this chapter explores the policy-making trends for Internet governance in China. It examines the manner by which policy changes over time, the different policy-making agencies in the country, and the various application scopes and topical focuses of policy. This chapter aims to determine the distribution of key policy decisions over different policy-making agencies and which policy issues receive the most attention from China’s government in its efforts to regulate the Internet.

Feng Yang, Milton L. Mueller

Chapter 23. The Internet in China: New Methods and Opportunities

This chapter reviews methodological advances in Internet studies in Chinese politics. First, automated text analysis reduces the time and cost of examining texts, and makes it possible to conduct a large-scale analysis of textual data like social media posts. Tools of automated text analysis, such as supervised classification, ReadMe, and topic models, have been applied in Internet studies in Chinese politics. Second, the new methods also bring new opportunities for developing rigorous research designs: (1) the Internet can serve as a platform for online field and survey experiments; (2) in some cases, in particular natural experiments, big data make it easier to conduct causal inference; (3) and with big data, there is potential to make inference with regard to a broader context.

Yang Zhang

Social Equity and Governance


Chapter 24. Predicament of Emerging Collaborative Governance: National Policy, Local Experiments, and Public Hospital Reforms in China

Public hospitals are an important part of the supply side of the health sector around the world, and numerous studies have shown that large majorities of the public, in particular in Europe, support public provision of health care (Wendt et al. 2010; Missinne et al. 2013; Jensen and Naumann 2016). In China, public hospitals play an especially significant role in health-care service delivery system (World Bank 2010a; Qian and Blomqvist 2014). Serving as major facilities for the Chinese people to seek medical care, the capacities, service volumes, and operational revenues of public hospitals hold dominant positions in the hospital sector. Therefore, governance reforms of public hospitals are among the top priorities for improving the overall performance of the health-care sector in China (Yip et al. 2012).

Edward Gu

Chapter 25. Variations in Educational Inequalities in China and Policy Implications

As a result of China’s rapid economic development, its gross domestic product (GDP) increased by almost 28 times from US$360.9 billion in 1990 to US$11.2 trillion in 2016 (The World Bank 2017). A powerful pillar of China’s economic growth is the increase in the educational level of its population. Indeed, a country’s economic growth depends on a highly educated workforce. The scope of this chapter is confined to the analyses of educational attainment in compulsory education in relation to equality and equity issues. Based on data collected from a national sample in China in 2014, this chapter examines the combined effects of hukou status, economic regions, rural and urban residency, and gender on the educational attainment of Chinese people aged 12–43. In this study, educational attainment is defined as the actual number of years of completed schooling and the completion of the mandatory nine years of education, including elementary and junior high school. The results are interpreted with specific regard to the reasons for the disparities in the educational opportunities of rural migrant and urban residents. Based on these findings and the extant literature, several policy recommendations for improvement are suggested.

Xinxin Wang, Xue Lan Rong

Chapter 26. Mobilization and Irregularity: Volatile Growth of Educational Expenditure in China

Social policy scholars often take the view that welfare states can be classified into different types based on distinct political philosophies and stable institutional features. It is a challenge to position China in any such taxonomy, however. Using the volatile growth of educational expenditure in recent years as an example, this chapter suggests that China’s social policy in general, and educational policy in particular, has not evolved into a stable model. The tension between centralized mandates and decentralized financing generates greater irregularity than any existing theory can sufficiently explain. China often relies on top-down mobilization to achieve unfunded or underfunded policy mandates. Mobilization, however, cannot last long as it stresses and strains local governments. The alternation between mobilization and post-mobilization is highly disruptive for China’s welfare state building. Much more needs to be done to replace mobilization with a more regularized, sustainable, and equitable financing mechanism for education and other social programs.

Litao Zhao

Chapter 27. Labour Inspection in Contemporary China: Like the Anglo-Saxon Model, but Different

This chapter examines the lack of enforcement of China’s increasing body of labour legislation, showing how, since the 1980s, the country’s labour inspection system has evolved into a system resembling the Anglo-Saxon model—characterized by fragmentation and reactive regulatory practices—but with highly selective and non-coercive state enforcement. This “hybrid” labour inspection model stems from the combination of neoliberal reforms with the Leninist legacy of the authoritarian regime. More effective enforcement of labour law would, the authors suggest, require greater tripartite cooperation and social dialogue in the regulatory process and the involvement of an independently organized industrial force.

Wenjia Zhuang, Kinglun Ngok

Urbanization and Governance


Chapter 28. From Local Government-Led to Collaborative Governance: The Changing Role of Local Governments in Urbanization

China has accelerated its urbanization since the 1990s, its urbanization rate leaping from 29.04% in 1995 to 57.4% in 2016. While driving the large-scale migration of rural population to cities, the urbanization has expanded urban entities and urban space. This round of urbanization is a typical local government-led urbanization. As legal subjects of land expropriation and transfer, the local governments levied the land from farmers with low compensation and resettlement costs on the one hand and transferred land use rights to land use developers to obtain extra budgetary income on the other hand. Meanwhile, land has become a key bargaining chip for regional “race-to-bottom” investment attraction as the local governments have deliberately lowered industrial land prices to attract foreign investment, promote local economy, and develop tax bases. It is under this government-led “Land Expropriation—Land Selling” (LELS) Model that China boosted its urbanization and industrialization for more than a decade; therefore, China has become a middle-income country in its urbanization rate, industrial structure, and people’s income. However, two major dimensions of China’s urbanization, “population urbanization” and “space urbanization,” have shown severe contradictions and problems, and they are related to China’s traditional local government-led urbanization model, more or less.

Hui Wang, Shenghua Lu

Chapter 29. The Rise of Public-Private Partnerships in China

China’s economic takeoff and rapid urbanization in recent decades have been accompanied by the dazzling growth of the nation’s infrastructure system. Take the transportation sector as an example. China’s total expressway mileage had reached a staggering 131,000 km by 2016, expanding from merely 20.4 km in 1988 when the first stretch of expressway was completed around Shanghai City (Zaobao 2017). Railroads in operation increased from 22,900 km in 1952 to 124,000 km in 2016, including more than 22,000 km of high-speed rail that moves sleek passenger trains between China’s major urban centers at speeds that clock in at over 200 km/h (Xinhua Net 2017a). In China’s current subway boom, not only are megacities like Beijing and Shanghai actively adding new lines and extensions, smaller Chinese cities are also racing toward opening their first subway lines. During 2012–2016, the number of cities with subway in operation increased from 17 to 27, with the total ridership climbing from 8.7 billion unlinked passenger trips to about 16.1 billion (Xinhua Net 2017b).

Zhirong Jerry Zhao, Guocan Su, Dan Li

Chapter 30. Land Conflict and the Transformation of Local Governance

The design of land acquisition system (LAS) is a reflection of antagonisms of government-farmer relationships (GFRs) in China and is a point from which to examine adjustments of local governance. Due to the scarcity and irreplaceability of land resources, inelastic demand cannot be realized by the market or by other means when a nation must use specific land for the public (Zhang 2005). Therefore, LAS has generally been established in all countries worldwide, and the demand for land for national public construction is met by obtaining land from other subjects using national public power (Xu 2011). This arrangement of land use is referred to as the practice of “supreme land rights” in the US; as “compulsory purchasing” in the UK; as “land requisition” in Japan; as “land acquisition” in France, Germany, and Taiwan; and as the “resumption of Crown land” in Hong Kong. In China, land acquisition refers to a form of administrative action through which the state can (for the public) transfer rural collective land into state-owned land in accordance with the law. Land acquisition practices, legal systems, administrative enforcement systems, and acquisition management systems constitute the foundation of the Chinese LAS.

Rong Tan

Environmental and Energy Governance


Chapter 31. Local Implementation of Energy Conservation Policies in China

This chapter examines China’s national energy policies and the way in which local governments implement policies to reduce energy consumption. It illustrates how Chinese government officials often opt to “kill two (or more) birds with one stone” by choosing implementation pathways that balance local priorities with national energy targets, and how they are more likely to faithfully implement energy conservation policies and projects that also address salient business, economic, safety, pollution, and political legitimacy interests and concerns in their localities. Local governments are less likely to strictly implement energy conservation policies without “bundling” potential and employ foot-dragging measures such as seeking loopholes in the implementation guidelines.

Genia Kostka

Chapter 32. Energy Policy Design and China’s Local Climate Governance: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Policies in Hangzhou

This study probes climate policy design at city level in China, with Hangzhou’s energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) policies between 2005 and 2014 as a case. The study applies a political action arena approach to accentuate the importance of different normative preferences behind climate change policies in relation to Hangzhou’s emerging urban climate governance regime. Three main categories of policy instruments are identified—that is, command-and-control, market-based, and collaborative governance instruments—and their development over time is examined. It is concluded that in Hangzhou EE is a more mature and comprehensive political action arena than RE. The study also finds that there has been a significant shift away from preferences toward command-and-control to more market-based instruments, while cooperative governance instruments are still in their infancy. It finally shows that the design and implementation of local programs, especially the selection of policy instruments, are strongly influenced by the normative preferences of local officials. Thus, the approach of Hangzhou’s government to the design and implementation of climate policies seem to gradually become less authoritarian, more market based, and more accountable due to the inherent complexity of this political action arena.

Ting Guan, Jørgen Delman

Chapter 33. Climate Change Challenges and China’s Responses: Mitigation and Governance

China plays a key role in global climate change negotiations with the status of the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for more than one-third of global emissions in 2014 (Paltsev et al. 2012; Stalley 2015; Wang et al. 2016).

Fabiana Barbi, Leila da Costa Ferreira, Sujian Guo

Chapter 34. Breathe Easy? Local Nuances of Authoritarian Environmentalism in China’s Battle Against Air Pollution

The heavy smog suffocating China’s cities is increasingly being perceived as a threat by both the population and the authorities. Consequently, political action aiming at regulating ambient air pollution has become increasingly comprehensive and rigid in recent year. Even measures limiting consumption and production seem to become acceptable as China is facing an airpocalypse. Does this suggest a genesis of real “authoritarian environmentalism” (AE) in the PRC? Taking this as a heuristic point of departure, we present findings from research on the local implementation of air pollution control measures in Hangzhou City. We offer a critical examination of the concept of AE and, in particular, of policy implementation strategies vis-à-vis the general public. Altogether, we argue for different emphases in a potential Chinese model of AE. In a context where outcomes are sought at any cost, we observe more complexity and nuances than are usually captured by the AE concept.

Anna L. Ahlers, Yongdong Shen
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