Central–Local Relations: Recentralization and Environmental Governance in China

The China Quarterly, Forthcoming

14 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2016

See all articles by Genia Kostka

Genia Kostka

Freie Universität, Berlin

Jonas Nahm

Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Date Written: Novemeber 9, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Kostka, Genia and Nahm, Jonas, Central–Local Relations: Recentralization and Environmental Governance in China (Novemeber 9, 2016). The China Quarterly, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2865993

Genia Kostka

Freie Universität, Berlin ( email )

Boltzmannstr. 3
Berlin, 14195
Germany

Jonas Nahm (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

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