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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Politics of Poor Air Quality in Contemporary China /

  • Author(s): Oliver, Steven
  • et al.
Abstract

What can the issue of poor air quality in China's rapidly growing urban centers teach scholars about politics in contemporary China and authoritarian regimes more generally? This dissertation argues that the answer is (surprisingly) quite a bit. To this end, the dissertation makes use of a wide range of original data and novel methods to offer insights from a recent campaign to improve ambient air quality in the province-ranked municipality of Chongqing as well as recent episodes of abysmal air quality and resulting public outcry over ambient air quality monitoring and reporting standards into a number of ongoing scholarly debates. For example, do top-down accountability institutions such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadre evaluation system through which leaders link the promotion of sub-national officials to quantitative indicators of their performance in office create perverse incentives for officials to manipulate these same indicators? If officials can indeed manipulate indicators, then is it possible for leaders to promote officials based upon their performance in office? Absent bottom-up accountability institutions like competitive elections and where leaders maintain substantial control over the media, who sets the public agenda and can the public agenda influence the policy agenda? The following chapters address these and related questions

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