Academic journal article Public Administration Review

The Implementation Gap in Environmental Management in China: The Case Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Nanjing

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

The Implementation Gap in Environmental Management in China: The Case Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Nanjing

Article excerpt

Protecting the environment from pollution has now become one of the global concerns of the modern world. Our world faces potentially convulsive change. The world's degradation is damaging human health, slowing the growth in world food production, and reversing economic progress in dozens of countries. We are all potentially affected by what happens within the global environment.

Mobilizing for change to bring about a better living environment is the key issue confronting every individual and society in general. Success in environmental protection depends on overcoming many factors. In this article, we consider how three local governments in China deal with environmental degradation. Using China as a case study, we show the difficulties facing modern governments in mobilizing their field regulators to carry out effectively environmental protection work.

In 1993, it was the 20th anniversary of the beginning of China's serious environmental protection work. During the past decades, environmental work in China has taken various paths. It is a mixture of noble intentions, good achievements, casual neglect, and astonishing irresponsibility. China had a late start in terms of environmental protection work. Assessing the present state of environmental protection work is the first step in studying the implementation gap, that is, the difference between planned national goals and the actual policies. The article begins with a review of the development of environmental administration in terms of the main legal support framework and major management approaches.

Most implementation literature debates the goals of environmental policy and the relative merits of alternative administrative structures and regulatory mechanisms. Much of the literature still has a strong rationalist strain; the messy reality of human institutions is dismissed through the assumption that the management system ought (and can be made) to conform to the structured planning-and-control model (Dunshire, 1978; Jenkins, 1978; Bacharach and Lawler, 1981; Barrett and Fudge, 1981; Mazmanian and Sabatier, 1981). Doubts have been raised about the methodological soundness of conventional treatments of pollution control which: assume that allocative efficiency is the only legitimate management goal; neglect the distributional, administrative, and legal constraints on the feasibility of employing an "optimal" economic incentive system; and apparently refuse to deviate from the assumption that the pollution control system is populated by economically rational entrepreneurs and regulators, operating without technical, perceptual, organizational, and capital availability constraints (Rees, 1988; 170-172). Most important, the conventional approach ignores that the efficacy of physically based control strategies is limited by the lack of understanding of, and attention paid to, human response, particularly the street-level regulators themselves.

Formal structures aside, public organizations also include cultural systems and individual members. Cultural systems consist of systemic beliefs, orientations, and predispositions, while individual member systems, in this context, entail beliefs, orientations, and predispositions held by individual members. both are affected by each other, just as both affect and, in turn, are affected by formal structures. Organizational culturists believe that cultures affect structures directly, as well as indirectly, by limiting the range of choices available to the members of organizations (Schein, 1985; Thompson and Wildavsky, 1986; Franks, 1989). Several case studies incorporate the effect of national culture on organizational culture and eventually on organizational performance (Hofstede, 1980; Lockett, 1988). Their analyses lead us to believe that even when structures and policies are the same, organizational performance may vary because of cultural variations (Renu, Ng, and Chan, 1992).

It is hypothesized that street-level regulators are unfavorably disposed to China's environmental policy. …

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