Policy Learning and Central–Local Relations: A Case Study of the Pricing Policies for Wind Energy in China (from 1994 to 2009)

Daphne Ngar-yin Mah*, Peter R. Hills

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


This paper brings together the key concepts of policy learning and central-local relations to examine how the efficacy of sustainability policies can be improved, with a particular reference to pricing policies for wind energy in China. Based on our comparative case studies of three provinces, Guangdong, Shanghai and Xinjiang, we critically examine how central-local relations may facilitate or impede policy learning. Our analysis focuses on policy changes at the national level, including the move away from the tendering policy to a fixed-price policy in 2009, and the diversity of local policy responses, which include a local fixed-price policy in Guangdong, a two-tiered model in Shanghai and a de facto fixed-price policy in Xinjiang. We have three major key findings. First, we found that technical and conceptual forms of policy learning have taken place in China, but the progression towards the highest form of policy learning, social learning, is limited. Secondly, we found that the established fabric of central-local relations has created facilitating conditions for as well as limitations to the advancements towards social learning. A national policy framework, a multi-level governance system, institutional arrangements for knowledge creation and learning, and a more participatory form of governance for civil society are some of the facilitating conditions. However, over-centralization, the inertia against institutional changes and the failure to recognize the need for a more deliberative decision-making process are identified as key barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-232
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number3
Early online date14 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

User-Defined Keywords

  • Central-local relations
  • China
  • Energy pricing
  • Policy learning
  • Wind policy


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