Project

Back to overview

Transnational Private Governance for the Environment in China

Applicant Sun Yixian
Number 162177
Funding scheme Doc.CH (until 2020)
Research institution
Institution of higher education Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies - IHEID
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.09.2015 - 31.08.2018
Approved amount 203'544.00
Show all

Keywords (7)

Environmental Governance; Private Authority; Transnational Relations; Chinese Politics; Domestic Regulatory Institutions; Voluntary Standards; Political Economy

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Depuis les années 1990, des ONGs ou entreprises ont créé de nombreux programmes de gouvernance - standards ou codes de bonne conduite - relatifs à différents enjeux environnementaux : déforestation, surpêche, pollution chimique etc. Ces programmes privés sont souvent initiés dans les pays développés et progressivement introduits dans les autres pays. Bien que les pays émergents occupent une place de plus en plus importante sur le marché mondial, on manque toujours de recherches analysant dans quelle mesure ces programmes sont acceptés par ces pays, et si ces programmes sont utiles pour améliorer la réglementation environnementale. Ce projet choisit la Chine comme exemple critique afin de comprendre la diffusion de la gouvernance environnementale privée. Outre sa taille, la Chine est aussi un cas intéressant du fait de son régime politique. Il est donc nécessaire de voir si le régime autoritaire laisse très peu de place à la gouvernance privée comme prévu par des théories existantes.
Lay summary

Contenu et objectifs du travail de recherche

Le projet vise à atteindre deux objectifs principaux. Premièrement, il établit une nouvelle base de données sur tous les programmes privés introduits en Chine, et donc examine la variation de la participation des entreprises chinoises dans différents secteurs. Il peut ainsi compléter les recherches sur la gouvernance environnementale privée qui se concentrent sur les pays occidentaux. Deuxièmement, le projet analyse les facteurs déterminant les intérêts des entreprises à l’adoption de ces standards. Ayant construit un cadre théorique tenant compte des influences transnationales et institutions domestiques, il examine l’argument selon lequel la position de l’Etat chinois sur un enjeu environnemental peut déterminer le niveau de participation des entreprises aux programmes concernés.

Contexte scientifique et social du projet

Avec une approche d’économie politique, le projet utilise des méthodes quantitatives et qualitatives de science politique afin d’identifier les effets de divers variables qui pourraient motiver les entreprises chinoises. A travers des études de cas basés sur des travaux de terrain, le projet compare aussi le processus d’introduction de certain programmes transnationaux en Chine où différent acteurs interagissent. En montrant les causes de succès ou échec de ces programmes en Chine, le projet pourra contribuer, d’un côté, à la compréhension de l’efficacité de la gouvernance environnementale privée et ses interactions avec la régulation publique ; et de l’autre côté, aux recherches sur l’autorité privée dans les relations internationales et celles des groupes d’intérêts en Chine. De manière pratique, le projet peut donner lieu à des recommandations aux initiateurs de ces programmes pour améliorer leur travail.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 25.08.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Emerging markets and private governance: the political economy of sustainable palm oil in China and India
Schleifer Philip, Sun Yixian (2018), Emerging markets and private governance: the political economy of sustainable palm oil in China and India, in Review of International Political Economy, 190-214.
Private Governance
Andonova Liliana, Sun Yixian (2017), Private Governance, in Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science, 1.
Transnational Public-Private Partnerships as Learning Facilitators: Global Governance of Mercury
Sun Yixian (2017), Transnational Public-Private Partnerships as Learning Facilitators: Global Governance of Mercury, in Global Environmental Politics, 17(2), 21-44.
The Changing Role of China in Global Environmental Governance
Sun Yixian (2016), The Changing Role of China in Global Environmental Governance, in Rising Powers Quarterly, 1(1), 43-53.
Lo, Alex. 2016. Carbon Trading in China: Environmental Discourse and Politics. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Sun Yixian (2016), Lo, Alex. 2016. Carbon Trading in China: Environmental Discourse and Politics. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan., in Global Environmental Politics, 16(3), 159-161.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Confucius Institute, University of Geneva Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
ETH CIS-International Relations Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
The Governance, Environment and Markets (GEM) Initiative, Yale University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Centre for International Environmental Studies, Graduate Institute Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Organic Tea Research and Development Centre, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences China (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Amesterdam Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Earth System Governance Project Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Department of Political Science, McGill University Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
GlobaFood Research Seminar Individual talk Private Sustainability Governance in China's Agri-food Sector 27.08.2018 Goettingen, Germany Sun Yixian;
ECPR General Conference Talk given at a conference Swimming in their Own Direction: Explaining Domestic Variation in Sustainability Governance for Aquaculture in Asia 26.08.2018 Hamburg, Germany Sun Yixian;
International Studies Association's 59th Annual Convention Talk given at a conference Fertile Ground Without Seeds: Re-visiting Limitations of Transnational Sustainability Governance in China’s Tea Sector 04.04.2018 San Francisco, United States of America Sun Yixian;
Swiss Political Science Association Annual Conference Talk given at a conference Fertile Ground Without Seeds: Re-visiting Limitations of Transnational Sustainability Governance in China’s Tea Sector 05.02.2018 Geneva, Switzerland Sun Yixian;
2017 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance Talk given at a conference Emerging markets and private governance: the political economy of sustainable palm oil in China and India 10.10.2017 Lund, Sweden Sun Yixian;
International Studies Association's 58th Annual convention Talk given at a conference Promoting Sustainability through Transnational Markets? The Diffusion of Private Sustainability Standards in China 24.02.2017 Baltimore, United States of America Sun Yixian;
International Studies Association's 58th Annual convention Talk given at a conference The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Emerging Markets: The Politics of Diffusion in China and India 23.02.2017 Baltimore, United States of America Sun Yixian;
Swiss Political Science Association Annual Conference Talk given at a conference Private Governance in Developing Countries: What Are Drivers of Voluntary Carbon Offset Programs? 12.01.2017 St. Gallen, Switzerland Sun Yixian;
Swiss Political Science Association Annual Conference Talk given at a conference The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Emerging Markets: The Politics of Diffusion in China and India 11.01.2017 St. Gallen, Switzerland Sun Yixian;
ICTs and Governance in Europe and China Talk given at a conference Environmental Campaigns through Social Media: Opportunities and Limits 25.11.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Sun Yixian;
The International Conference on “Disclosing Transparency: The Transformative Power of Transparency” Talk given at a conference Who Diffuse Transnational Sustainability Governance to China? A Comparative Study Across Commodity Chains 25.06.2016 Wageningen, Netherlands Sun Yixian;
The EU and China: Climate Change and Energy Diplomacy Talk given at a conference Voluntary Carbon Osets in China and Potential Climate Cooperation between China and Europe 02.05.2016 Brussels, Belgium Sun Yixian;
The International Studies Association's 57th Annual Convention Talk given at a conference Private Environmental Governance in China: a comparative study of two certification programs 17.03.2016 Atlanta, United States of America Sun Yixian;
Annual Congress of the Swiss Political Science Association (SPSA) 2016 Talk given at a conference The Uptake of Private Environmental Governance in China 22.01.2016 Basel, Switzerland Sun Yixian;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
"Sustainable Commodity Governance & The Global South" Workshop 03.04.2018 San Francisco, United States of America

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Tea Sustainability Union Inaugural Meeting Talk 22.06.2017 Hangzhou, China Sun Yixian;
ICTs And Governance In Europe and China Workshop 25.11.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Sun Yixian;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Other activities Earth System Governance Research Trip International 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland Launch Conference Earth Negotiations Bulletin International 2018

Awards

Title Year
Oran Young Prize for the best paper of early-career researchers at the 2017 Earth System Governance Conference (runner-up) 2017

Abstract

In the last two decades, transnational governance programs led by private actors (e.g. business, non-governmental organizations) to address environmental impacts of global markets have emerged across economic sectors, such as forestry, fisheries, agriculture, energy, chemicals and building materials. Originating from North America and Western Europe, many of these private rules or standards are gradually introduced to producers in developing countries. While global production has been increasingly consolidated in large emerging economies, research still needs to be carried out to uncover whether or not transnational private governance is able to lead these countries to “trade up” their environmental standards. This research project seeks to bridge this gap by examining factors which determine variation in China’s uptake of transnational private governance for different environmental issues. Theoretically, China is also a critical case because of its unique political institutions. However, most existing analyses focus on Western democracies, or some developing countries in which the state plays a less direct role in the economy than China. This leaves unanswered the question of how other types of domestic political institutions and state-society relationships condition actors’ engagement with transnational private governance. Therefore, this project will investigate whether or not the authoritarian regime only leaves very limited space for private governance in China as is often assumed. Taking into account recent developments in environmental regulation in China, my research will also analyze interactions between transnational private governance and state regulation, and thereby contribute to a better understanding of the roles played by the government in China’s uptake of transnational private governance. Existing literature finds both transnational influences and domestic institutions to be important factors which condition firms’ participation in private programs of environmental governance. Drawing upon theories of international political economy and domestic institutional analysis, this research project will develop an analytical framework which identifies economic benefits and interests in environmental protection as two major types of incentives for firms to participate in transnational private governance, and accordingly infers different possibilities of interactions between state regulation and private governance. Building on this framework, the project seeks to first develop a dataset of the transnational private programs which have been introduced in China. With this dataset, I plan to test the parallel conjectures that industry’s strong incentives for economic benefits and environmental protection lead to the active participation of Chinese actors in transnational private governance and, likewise, that the lack of these incentives of industry causes low level of participation. More importantly, the project intends to analyze more in-depth the puzzling cases in which industry, having little market incentives to participate in transnational private governance, faces high pressures from other stakeholders for environmental protection. Through comparative cases studies, my research will examine the argument that domestic institutional contexts of regulation in a given sector largely determine whether or not the government uses regulatory measures to promote transnational private governance for related environmental issues. By exploring the causes of the success or failure of private initiatives for environmental governance in China, along with the dynamic interactions between transnational private governance and state regulation there, the project will contribute to the scholarship on environmental governance and private authority, on the one hand, and on international relations and Chinese politics, on the other.
-