Panel Paper: Who Maximizes (or Satisfices)? Energy Efficiency Enhancement Under Performance Management Paradigm in China

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 3:30 PM
Georgetown II (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jiaqi Liang, American University
Not until recently, maintaining economic growth has gained precedence over concerns of environmental protection and energy efficiency in China. However, faced with increased political and economic pressures domestically and internationally, enhancing energy efficiency has become one of the most prominent policy priorities to the central government, as it is vital to controlling ambient air pollution and reducing reliance on carbon-based energy sources. To showcase the commitment as well as to ensure the desired policy outcomes, starting from the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2006-2010), the central government has mandated that energy efficiency enhancement is governed by the performance-based paradigm, under which provincial governments undergo performance evaluations in terms of annually assigned targets. The accomplishment outcomes of these targets which feature high-power incentives determine the rewards or punishments of provincial leading bureaucrats (i.e., governors). Notably, the device of these rewards and punishments significantly bears on the bureaucratic career, which is institutionalized by the nomenklatura.

Although most provinces fulfilled the five-year policy goals, they differed dramatically in the extent to which both the long-term and annual targets were achieved. Specifically, some failed the targets; some basically met the benchmarks, while some outperformed impressively. Research questions arise in terms of what factors contribute to these various outcomes. Under the theoretical framework of performance management movement and reform in public administration, this paper argues that policy outcomes and bureaucratic performance are contingent on the institutionally embedded career incentives of subnational bureaucrats. Hypothetically, higher expected career payoffs push provincial leading bureaucrats to maximize the accomplishment of targets. Instead, bureaucrats satisfice when their political and career benefits are not paramount.

This paper devises a time-series cross-section analysis to explore the related research questions with data of 29 province-level governments from 2006-2010. Data is collected from China National Bureau of Statistics, National Development and Reform Commission, and several official news archives, which are the major, credible government and socioeconomic data sources of China. The dependent variable, policy goal of energy efficiency enhancement, is measured and tested in multiple ways. They are energy consumption per unit of gross regional product (GRP), difference between the actual and target percent reduction in energy consumption per unit of GRP, and the performance score rating by the central government. Explanatory variables, the institutionally embedded career incentives of provincial bureaucrats, are measured by three indicators, including mandatory retirement age, Politburo representation, and current Poliburo membership. In addition, several relevant control variables are considered, including government spending shares of security and non-security categories, disposable income, tax revenues, investment assets in pollution-intensive industries, population, and population density. According to the nature of each dependent variable, fixed effects and ordered logistic regression models are adopted. Empirical findings show that provincial bureaucratic career incentives are important predictors of the fulfillment of centrally-mandated targets of energy efficiency enhancement. Specifically, bureaucrats with higher marginal career benefits with respect to the access to the Politburo and those with age advantage (i.e., being younger) more actively pursued and maximized the centrally-designated targets. Some control variables are statistically significant in an expected direction.