Fragile Convergence: Understanding Variation in the Enforcement of China's Industrial Pollution Law


Official statistics and independent survey data show that in the last decade China has witnessed a remarkable change in its enforcement of environmental pollution violations, moving toward more formalistic and coercive law enforcement with more enforcement cases as well as higher fines. The data also show that there is considerable regional variation with coastal areas having more and higher punishments than those inland. This article explores these findings, seeking to understand the explanation and meaning of these temporal and regional variation patterns. The study shows how enforcement varies when there is a convergence of governmental, social, and economic institutional forces. The article argues that the basis for such convergence has been fragile, as national pressures have lacked consistency and local community and government support evaporates when dominant sources of income are at stake.

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