Authority flowing downwards? Local government entrepreneurship in the Chinese water sector
In this study I investigate the factors that shape and enable local governments to evade, modify, or innovate central government policies during implementation. I consider the ability of local governments to undertake any of these three actions as examples of policy entrepreneurship. This study explores how the increase in decentralization in China has affected local government discretion and entrepreneurship in water policy implementation. Many scholars researching China's reforms maintain that the decentralization policies have enhanced local government power and autonomy. But the qualities, limitations, and causes of this enhancement merit a more thorough exploration. In order to address this broad research question, I create an analytical framework to explore the intergovernmental dynamics in Chinese water policy implementation as more responsibilities and authority have been devolved to lower levels of government.
This framework has three components which help to capture the qualities of local discretion and the dynamics of bottom-up policy making in the Chinese water sector. The framework moves from an analysis of overall decentralization in the water sector to a detailed examination of central government goal-setting and monitoring ability. The third and final component of the framework provides an analysis of local water bureau resources and incentives to implement policies. I use the framework to examine the implementation of three water policies in one Chinese province--water fee collection, the water withdrawal permit system, and the policy of developing sideline economic operations. This three-tiered investigation helps illuminate how devolution of authority in the water sector in China has changed the strategies, preferences, and power resources of local and central government actors. Most importantly, this framework enables me to systematically map out some of the causes and qualities of the water policy entrepreneurship in the counties under study. The study concludes with a discussion of how the increasing devolution of authority has influenced the management, use, and conservation of water resources in China.
0617: Public administration