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Translating Regulatory Promise Into Environmental Progress: Institutional Capacity and Environmental Regulation in China

August 2006

Citation: 36 ELR 10616

Issue: 8

Author: Wanxin Li and Eric Zusman

Editor's Summary: A growing body of research attributes China's environmental problems to weak regulatory enforcement. Few studies, however, have explored the relationship between institutional capacity and regulatory enforcement. In this Article, Wanxin Li and Eric Zusman draw upon the literature on state capacity and institutional analysis to fill this void. The Article reveals that local environmental protection bureaus with greater human capital--though not necessarily greater financial resources--enforce regulations more rigorously. The Article also shows that these efforts do not necessarily lead to cleaner air or water. Regions with industries that have a greater capacity to abate pollution tend to pollute more, offsetting the potentially beneficial effects of stronger regulatory enforcement. The authors therefore conclude that it may take more than just innovative regulations to translate regulatory promise into environmental progress.

Wanxin Li is an Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. For correspondence, she can be reached at wanxin90@tsinghua.edu.cn. Eric Zusman is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. His participation in this project was made possible by funding from the University of California's Pacific Rim Grant Program and Institute for Global Cooperation and Conflict. This project is partially funded by the Urban China Research Network. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this Article are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the view of the Urban China Research Network.

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