Table of Contents

Environmental Governance and Decentralisation

Environmental Governance and Decentralisation

New Horizons in Environmental Economics series

Edited by Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone and Giovanna Garrone

This book examines how different countries define and address environmental issues, specifically in relation to intergovernmental relations: the creation of institutions, the assignment of powers, and the success of alternative solutions. It also investigates whether a systemic view of the environment has influenced the policy-making process. The broad perspective adopted includes a detailed analysis of seventeen countries in six continents by scholars from a range of disciplines – economics, political science, environmental science and law – thus producing novel material that moves away from the conventional treatment of decentralisation and the environment in economic literature.

Chapter 12: China: Seeking Meaningful Decentralization to Achieve Sustainability

Changhua Wu and Hua Wang

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, public sector economics, environment, environmental economics, environmental governance and regulation


Changhua Wu and Hua Wang Without an understanding of the powers of various actors, the domains in which they exercise their powers, and to whom and how they are accountable, it is impossible to learn the extent to which meaningful decentralization has taken place. (Agrawal and Ribot, 1999) 1. INTRODUCTION When China embarked on a process of reforms three decades ago, the country was governed by an extensive, functioning bureaucracy and had a centrally planned economy modeled generally on that of the Soviet Union. With reforming the economic and political system as its core mission, the Chinese leadership started to relax the tight state control in the early 1980s. Economically, the country began the transition from a state-directed, command-and-control economy to an economy that is more marketdriven. As a result, significant economic authority was devolved to provincial and local officials; many political constraints were removed from local economic activities; and Beijing’s ability to influence those activities and their outcome was greatly diminished. Politically, a similar transformation of institutions and authority also occurred. As Economy (2004) puts it, four distinct processes were set in motion: 1) The traditional culture of ‘rule by man’ was gradually replaced by a more institutionalized system with a codified system of laws; 2) significant political authority was devolved from Beijing to local officials; 3) China embraced technological assistance, policy advice, and financial support from the international community; and, 4) as government was further separated from the market, it also retreated...

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