Panel Paper: Hierarchical Intervention and Collaborative Design: Environmental Collaboration Among Chinese Local Governments

Friday, November 9, 2018
Taylor - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Lingyi Zhou1, Yixin Dai1 and Richard Feiock2, (1)Tsinghua University, (2)Florida State University

Environmental protection sets up governance challenges to local government since it requires collaborative efforts across administrative borders with fragmented policy directions as well as externalities. In the past decade, various environmental collaborations have emerged in China, including: informal workshops, regular meetings, collaborative agreements, and joint policies. However, existing literatures mainly regard collaboration as horizontal and voluntary under democratic context. Less has been discussed, theoretically or empirically, about the role of hierarchical interventions that are prevalent in Chinese environmental governance.

This research regards hierarchical intervention as important element that functions together with other key elements influencing collaboration, including: trust, reciprocity, and resource dependency. In China, the central government or superior government could use their authority, information and incentive-based strategies to impose collaboration among local actors. Although scholars began to pay attention to the effects of hierarchical intervention, most of them viewed hierarchical pressure as a parallel complement to horizontal interaction, and neglect the possibility that hierarchical intervention acts as a trigger of participants’ interdependency. Given that hierarchical intervention represents the legitimacy, power and resources of collaboration, thus it can trigger mutual trust and interaction among participants, even support resources, to generate collaboration. Our first research question is: what is the impact mechanism of hierarchical intervention to collaborative performance? Would hierarchical intervention stimulate or diminish horizontal interaction in the collaborative process?

Then, the second research lies in: how does hierarchical intervention meditate collaborative design to influence collaborative performance? Generally, hierarchical strategies are directly related with collaborative design, such as goals, timetable for tasks, governance structure, and performance evaluation, which is critical to guarantee actors’ commitment and collaborative outcomes. Additionally, the horizontal interaction that provides a mutual context might influence the mediating effects of collaborative design on performance.

Based on existing literature, we include three main parts of independent variables: hierarchical intervention (i.e. authority, incentive and information-based strategies), horizontal interaction (i.e. trust, reciprocity and resource) and collaborative design (i.e. goals, timetable, governance structure and performance evaluation). The dependent variable is collaborative performance, measured from three alternative ways: decision-making, implementation actions and environmental performance. We collected both provincial level and city level environmental collaboration data from the official website, micro-blog and daily newspaper from cities in the region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Yangtze River Delta in China from 2008 to 2017, with inter-jurisdictional collaboration as the unit of analysis. With 416 collaborations, we adopted casual mediation analysis to check the impact mechanism of hierarchical intervention on collaborative performance. Preliminary results show that authoritative tools can enhance collaborative design directly, thus improving collaborative performance, while incentive and information-based instruments tend to influence the design via stimulating resource dependency and trust building. And horizontal interaction is an important basis for the effects of collaborative design on performance.