Central–Local Relations: Recentralization and Environmental Governance in China
The China Quarterly, Forthcoming
14 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2016
Date Written: Novemeber 9, 2016
Recent literature on environmental governance in China frequently ascribes blame for China’s environmental problems to subnational governments’ lax environmental enforcement. Such research implicitly assumes that more central control would lead to better results but, as yet, the role of the centre in environmental governance remains under-researched. In the context of the current phase of recentralization, this paper examines central and local interests, capacities, and interactions across policy issues and government agencies. By “bringing the centre back” into the study of central–local relations in China, we examine both where such recentralization has in fact occurred and whether such recentralization efforts have improved environmental outcomes. We argue that centralization does not improve outcomes in every case. Further, central and local levels of governance are not as different as they might seem. Indeed, there are significant areas of overlapping interests and similar patterns of behaviour, both positive (enforcement) and negative (shirking), between central and local administrations. The results draw an empirically and theoretically rich picture of central–local relations that highlights the innate complexity of China’s environmental governance patterns during the current phase of recentralization.
Keywords: China, Environmental Governance, Central-Local Relations
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