Research agenda: Driving forces of policy making and implementation in China

Broadly speaking, I examine the driving forces of policy change and policy stability in China, as well as the content and design of government policies. My overarching research question is: what and who drives policy making and policy implementation in China?

Theoretically, my research agenda is embedded in the policy process literature, especially the Multiple Streams Framework and the Punctuated Equilibrium Theory.

Topics that I study include antimicrobial resistance, health reform, epidemic outbreaks, food safety, crisis management, natural disasters, soil pollution, and environmental accidents.

Most of my research focuses on national level policy, especially the process of lawmaking by China’s National People’s Congress. In my research projects, I use document analysis, interviews, and surveys.

Selected highlights of past and current projects

Implementation of China’s National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance
– with PI Benjamin Anderson (University of Florida)

This study maps China’s policy response to antimicrobial resistance. We also study how policymakers’ perceptions of the problem of antimicrobial resistance drive their behaviour and selection of policy options aimed at appropriate use of antimicrobials. This is a collaborative and comparative project across countries in Asia. The project is funded by the World Health Organization, see this interview.

Measuring policy change in China: A text reuse approach
– with Mattias van den Dool Enebjörk

This paper measures policy change in China. By applying a text reuse approach that compares the textual difference between successive versions of the same law, we calculate a similarity index for all national level laws amended by the National People’s Congress during 1954-2016.

Pedagogical Approaches in Teaching the Multiple Streams Framework
– with Nikolaos Zahariadis (Rhodes College) & Evangelia Petridou (Mid Sweden University)

This chapter describes the main concepts, key assumptions, and different hypotheses of the by the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) as well as learning objectives and pedagogy on how best to teach MSF. Under review, book chapter in edited volume.

What do we know about the Punctuated Equilibrium Theory in China? A systematic review and research priorities
– with Jialin Li (Duke Kunshan University)

According to the Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET), government policy is generally stable, but occasionally we witness large-scale departure from existing policies. This theory was developed to explain policy change in the US but has since been used in other countries. We conduct a meta-analysis of 88 Chinese-language journal articles on PET in China.

This project has been published in the Policy Studies Journal (2023). Read the full text here or click here to download a 1-page summary. See also this interview with us here.

The multiple streams framework in a non-democracy: The issue of live poultry sales in China

In response to calls to apply the multiple streams framework (MSF) to non-democracies, this project adapts the framework to an authoritarian context and applies it to a case study of live poultry sales in food markets in China, a key issue in epidemic prevention. Using a dataset consisting of Chinese policy documents, Chinese news articles, World Health Organization data, and secondary literature, the study shows that despite the public health threat posed by live poultry sales and despite high-level political support, a national-level permanent ban has not been adopted because it is technically infeasible, financially inviable, and inconsistent with existing norms and values. The study suggests that—despite the country’s top-down governance style and lack of political pluralism—policy preferences expressed by members of the policymaking elite are not necessarily adopted in authoritarian China. The article also identifies priority areas for future MSF research in authoritarian contexts.

This project has been published in the Policy Studies Journal (2022) and is titled “The multiple streams framework in a nondemocracy: The infeasibility of a national ban on live poultry sales in China.” The full-text version of the article is available for reading here. Read more on this topic in my blogpost for the Harvard Fairbank Center and in this interview with the DKU Center for the Study of Contemporary China.

Legitimizing Postcrisis Policy Change: Crisis-Framing Strategies by Public Leaders in China
– with Yihong Liu (Renmin University)

Existing research shows that post-crisis policy change in democracies is shaped by how crises are framed. Given structural political differences, it is unclear what role such framing plays in post-crisis policy change in authoritarian systems. This study adjusts the concept of crisis framing to authoritarian China and subsequently applies it to SARS, the Sichuan earthquake, and the H1N1 pandemic. The article shows that even though there are no competing frames, leaders in China do frame crises in different ways. We argue that if public leaders want to legitimate major post-crisis policy change, they simultaneously acknowledge the crisis, admit a malfunctioning status quo, and put forward explicit proposals for policy change. You’ll find the abstract below my signature and the full article attached. Published in Natural Hazards Review (2022).

Never again: Legal change after public health crises in China

This project aims to explain how and why laws in China change after public health crises by analyzing three such cases, including the 2008 milk powder crisis, the emergence of A(H7N9) avian influenza in 2013, and an environmental accident involving thousands of dead pigs floating in Shanghai’s Huangpu River. Full text (PhD dissertation). Interview about this project (in Dutch).