Policy learning and transfer in Greater China region

Though the consequences of incinerator building are various in these three cities, the overall waste governance and their dynamics shall not be neglected in the process of policy learning, which has been discussed in the second part of this book. In Chapter 5,1 demonstrated Taipei was an exemplar for Hong Kong and Guangzhou to learn in waste management because Taipei city was described as ‘the world’s geniuses of garbage disposal’.5 The chapter also discusses how these three cities to interact and learn in waste management and elaborates the determining factors affecting MSW policy transfer. Policy learning is a political process in interpreting information and action in the ACF. The coalitions deploy scientific and technological information to ‘exaggerate the influence and maliciousness of opponents’6 in the process of making policy change.

Policy learning and innovation are not new among the mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Policy innovation is found at the local level of government in China with the support of the Central government. The Innovations and Excellence in Chinese Local Governance (IECLG) awards program, for instance, is a reward programme for encouraging policy and public service innovation across China (Teets 2015) and inter-city learning often uses in policy learning and innovation in the country (Ma 2017). Ma (2017) addresses the policy innovation is the strategy of maintaining party resilience and legitimacy of the regime (Ma 2017). The Taiwanese government encourage the quality of public service and introduced the ‘Total Service Quality Enhancement Plan’ (TSQEP) and ‘Government Service Quality Award’ (GSQA) to enhance the quality of public service and innovation among the governmental agencies. A study found that the authorities frequent contact with the general public, such as police affairs, land administration and public health centres can gain service innovation through understanding the needs of citizens (Fu and Chang 2019). The Hong Kong government set up offices, for example Efficiency Office and The Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office, for promoting policy innovation. Efficiency Office provides facilitating role to help government departments in design innovative way for better qualitative service delivery. While the Policy Innovation and Coordination Office adopted policy innovation through encouraging the cooperation with think tanks and universities, as well as consultancy firms. Therefore, the chapter discussed how the state agencies and non-state actors have learnt the waste management among Taipei, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

The chapter addressed shared common social and cultural context, as well as the roles of policy makers and epistemic community have shaped the policy learning and transfer in waste management among these three cities. Both state authorities and non-state actors, such as non-governmental organizations and professional groups, had organized various activities to share their knowledge and experiences in MSW management. Their activities went beyond the political sensitivity across the strait in the recent years. In addition, the successful experience of Taipei in MSW management relies on the support of civil society and civic engagement, and the importance of strengthening civic capacity was highlighted at the end of the chapter.

Future development of environmental civil society in Greater China region

In all of the three cities, we can see the divergence and convergence in the Greater China region from the dynamics between state and non-state actors in managing MSW. Taipei, Guangzhou and Hong Kong are the affluent cities with highly urbanization, and the new rising middle class has environmental consciousness to their societies. These pluralized cities, in particular to Hong Kong and Taipei, have different opinions on the most effective solution on the MSW reduction and management, as well as their perceptions on the environmental protection. However, the divergence of participatory mechanism and regulatory institutions have shown that the level of public participation in policy-making process, the development of civil society, or more specific, the degree of démocratisation is different among these three cities. Lacking public participation in policy-making process and civil liberties are limited in Guangzhou and the people found the incinerator project spontaneously without prior notification. The EIA mechanism is unable to reflect the opinions of citizens in both Hong Kong and Taipei. For instance, the EIA report is not presented in layman’s terms and the public is not easy to engage in EIA forum for giving the feedback to the projects (Tang et al. 2016).

The experience of Taipei has portrayed the importance of civic engagement in waste governance, which the local authorities addressed the social dimension in decision-making process for gaining better public support in return (Garnett and Copper 2014). This book not only discusses the dynamics between state and non-state stakeholders in managing MSW in Taipei, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong; the recent trajectories and development of environmental civil society also have highlighted for better understand how the works of civil society organisations to achieve sustainable development within their societies, and their reciprocal relationships affect other cities.

In reviewing the trajectories of civil societies in the context Greater China, previous studies elaborated the historical development of Taiwan, the mainland China and Hong Kong have nurtured the growth of civil societies. The civil society organisations have found between 1950s and 1970s during the authoritarian KMT rule in Taiwan. However, these civil society organisations were either charitable organizations with well-established political connections or the philanthropic organisations were transplanted from the West. Other organisations were controlled or attached in the KMT rule (Hsiao and Kuan 2016). The blossom of civil society organisations in the process of liberalisation has transformed the state-society relations. In the stage of civil society organisations with various background and advocacy, such as anti-pollution, and reform the government, forced the KMT government to relax the control of civil society. Institutionalisation of démocratisation and the growth of civil society organisations have further nurtured civic engagement in Taiwan. The Legislative Yuan and the Administration Procedure Act have given opportunities for the general public participating in the policy process (Huang and Tu 2010), and community building are the examples of participatory mechanism for the people to engage in public affairs and service innovation. The Integrated Community-Building Program (enacted in 1994) empowers the collaboration between local government and grassroots initiatives into public policy, which the government support the initiatives for exploring the local histories and cultures. The community building programme has deepened Taiwan’s démocratisation, which mainly focused on the fundamental transformation on local cultural values and social relations at local level (Lee 2018).

The emergence of civil society of Hong Kong can be tracked back to the late 19th century during the early colonial period. The missionaries were the civil society organizations in Hong Kong at first place to provide different social services, such as medical and poverty services, to the society. Lacking proper public health policy for the people in the society, the Chinese social elites established philanthropic organisations, such as Tung Wah Groups of Hospital, to provide Chinese meditation for the Chinese; and later various types of charitable organizations, like Po Leung Kuk, played the role in providing social services to the people in need. Those organisations aimed at mutual help rather than play any role in public affairs. Decades after the riot in 1967, the colonial government had implemented more social policies and encouraged people to participate in public affairs. The colonial government further introduced participatory mechanism in the early 1980s for giving the taste of liberty and democracy. The British colonial government promulgated a White Paper to introduce election for both District Council and LegCo in 1985 and have seen as the beginning of démocratisation in Hong Kong. Political parties and interested groups with different political and social issues have found and engaged in public affairs actively since 1980s. However, the political culture has transformed after the millennium.

The HKSAR government has experienced a series of governing crisis such as Avian Flu Pandemic in 1997, Asian Financial Crisis 1998 and terrifying experience of SARS as well as the legislation of Basic Law Article 23 in 2003 arouse the discontent in the society. Half of million people protests on the street on 1 July against the legislation and the C.H. Tung administration. Eventually, the legislation was suspended, and the Chief Executive Tung stepped down one year after the protest. The victory of people’s power in the 2003 protest has encouraged further protests in every 1 July and demand for universal suffrage. The development of civil society also has been changed from mutual help, providing social services to fight for civil liberties and démocratisation rather than economy interests (Wong and Chan 2017). In this stage of the development of civil society was intense and political autonomy has become one of the important themes in Hong Kong’s social movement after 2003 (Ma 2010).

The politics of local identity or localism has risen since the protests of opposing the demolition of Queen’s Pier in 2006. The identity of Hongkongness has re-emerged and found in the protests since then, such as the opposition of building high-speed railway in 2010, opposition of implementing Moral and National Education programme in 2012 and later the Occupy Central Movement in 2014, which perceived as the political conflict of the integration with China and inspired the new rising political groups with the theme of localism (Wong and Chan 2017). Near to 50 years on, the growth and development of civil society in Hong Kong is proactively and aggressively attached in social issues and engaged in public affairs; but the partnership with the government in governance is badly devastated after several mass social movements (Chan and Chan 2017).

After 4 June 1989, the Chinese government has continued to reform and gradually provided space for the emergence of civil society organisations in different sphere. In a recent survey, the number of non-profit organisations (social organisations and NGOs also counted as part of non-profit organisations in this survey) from 4,400 in 1988 has risen to 816,000 in 2017.7 Three decades of development of the NGOs has seen a transformation in terms of scale and scope, and their backgrounds are various, such as education, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection, to provide different services to the society. Given that, the relationship with the government is various. The central government seeks partnership for providing welfare services with the involvement of NGOs in certain areas and conduct pilot projects in the country. The Central government highlights social management which perceived as one of the key ruling strategies in the economic reform. In the idea of social management, the state corporatist strategy with the works between local government, social organisations, as well as local party for building communities to serve the needs of the community party (Piekc 2012). The blossom of civil society organisations with wide range of interests in the society, the increasing bottom-up actions have emerged along with the opening up participatory mechanism, such as Open Government Information Regulations, EIA. As mentioned in Chapter 3, the protests were found during Hu-Wen administration with diversified grievances and the consequences of the protests were various, and a mechanism for solving conflicts has been absent, the protests has continued (Wong 2016a,2016b). However, the format of contention activism has changed in Xi’s administration.

Since the Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012, Xi Jinping has been the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He has advocated the ‘Chinese Dream’ (Zhongguo Meng) as a new slogan to rejuvenate the Chinese nation with continuous reform and innovation. To re-consolidate the legitimacy of the CCP, Xi has launched anti-corruption campaigns, strengthened party discipline, and enhanced governing capacity. While the contentious activism has become more repressive proactively, like a campaign of repression against civil society characterized by national security rhetoric, the criminalization of threatening activism, and proactive repression (Fu and Distelhorst 2017,). This strategy of repression on civil society organisations and contentious activism may have negative impacts on political engagement in the long run.

In short, the POS and the force of civil society have proven the effectiveness of policy implementation again among these three cities in this book. The experience of managing overloaded garbage and a maturing civil society drive the successful story of municipal waste management in Taipei city. This also explains why both Guangzhou and Hong Kong have to learn from Taipei’s experience regarded as high recycling rate and effectively collected the MSW systemically and have become the major change of MSW policy. Yet, the governability of these three cities must be considered in our analysis of the political context of MSW governance. Admittedly, the study of MSW governance in the three cities of Greater China has important implications for our understanding of the interactions among the policy actors, political environment, as well as social-economic condition. Finally, the study of MSW governance, as well as the environmental policy change in Greater China can adopted ACF-adopted in this book - to explore the complex and dynamics relationships in environmental governance.

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