Environmental Information Transparency in China: Analysing Individual, Organisational and Regional Disparities in Supply and Demand

Project: Research

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Environmental information transparency has been gradually institutionalised globally since the 1992 Rio Declaration. Such transparency is a desirable public good that promotes effective environmental governance, helps protect individuals from harm, catalyses collaboration for the enforcement of environmental standards, and facilitates social learning. However, the achievement of information transparency depends on establishing a legal basis, a social context, and the will and capacity to collect, process, publicise and use environmental information. For success, all of these factors must be activated at the individual, organisational, and regional levels. In 2007, the Chinese central government promulgated the Measures of Environmental Information Disclosure (Trial), but local implementation has been uneven and far from optimal. The causes of this uneven performance have been little explored to date. Both facing growing environmental hazards and having the ambition to develop a green economy, China has an urgent need for a systematic examination of the factors affecting environmental information transparency.This project fills a void in environmental governance research by examining the factors that influence the supply and demand for environmental information, as experienced by individual officials, environmental protection bureaus (EPBs), regional development agencies, NGOs and members of the public. At an individual level, an environmental official’s decision to disclose information depends on personal attitudes, beliefs, and perceived costs or benefits (Ajzen, 1991). At an organisational level, the availability of human and financial resources and inter-office collaboration can explain why different environmental agencies have different capacities for implementing environmental information transparency. At a regional level, socio-economic and environmental conditions, political leadership and the civic culture all influence the strategic orientation of environmental information transparency programmes. The proposed research project will investigate whether and how individual dispositions, features of EPBs, and socio-economic and political contexts intertwine with each other affecting the achievement of environmental information transparency across personal, organisational, and regional levels of activity.A stratified random sample of 12 cities is selected for analysis, from the 113 key Chinese cities identified by the government for environmental protection. These cities have experienced uneven implementation of the information transparency regulations. Subjects of the study include individual government officials, environmental agencies, and local residents. Focus groups, individual interviews, and surveys will be adopted for primary data collection. The field research will be supplemented with background information from news reports, government documents, reports from environmental NGOs and other sources.The findings of this project will inform researchers, practitioners and policy-makers concerning the driving forces, institutional designs, and social learning that can enable information transparency and improve environmental outcomes for China. The project will contribute to the literature on environmental governance, state-society relations, and the quality of government.


Project number9042115
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/12/1426/09/18

    Research areas

  • Information transparency,theory of planned behaviour,institutional capacity,social learning,