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Research Reports

A study on decision-making of air policies in China and implication of cooperation between Korea and China
  • Author Kang, Taek Goo
  • Researchers
  • Date 2020-10-31
Ⅰ. Introduction
1. Aims of this study
o The purpose of this study is to roughly understand the air pollution policy decision-making process at the central government level in China.
ㅇ More attention is being paid to the structure of China’s air pollution policy decision-making as fine dust is an issue currently being discussed between Korea, China, and Japan.
ㅇ As such, there is a growing need to find out about its structure and process.
ㅇ This study will examine the overall structure of China’s air pollution policy decision-making process, based on previous studies conducted on China’s policy decision-making processes in other fields, with the focus on identifying the key players.

2. Study content and process
o Although the academic world has much interest in China’s policy decision-making, relatively few studies have been conducted on the subject, as much of the structure and process remains hazy.
ㅇ Previous studies mostly analyze China’s policy-making process in the fields of foreign policy and the economy.
ㅇ No previous studies have earnestly dealt with China’s air management policy-making.
ㅇ Some previous studies discussed certain Chinese air management policies, but these studies lacked an understanding of the unique characteristics of the Chinese political system and simply enumerated agencies in the administrative system of related departments in the central government.

o This study analyzed the air policy decision-making by the central government in the following categories: the Communist Party of China (CPC), and the official/unofficial organizations of the Chinese government.
ㅇThis study examined policy decision-making with a focus on the relationship between the CPC and the State Council. The National People’s Congress related to legislation was excluded.
ㅇ This study is expected to provide reference data to related departments within the Korean government in using channels to cooperate with China for air pollution reduction in both countries.

Ⅱ. The Structure of the Chinese Political System and the Players
1. The basic structure and operation principles of the Chinese political system
o The Chinese political system is based on the party-state dual political system.
ㅇ In actuality, the CPC leads the state, and the key political players consist of those in the CPC and those in the Chinese government.
ㅇ After Xi Jinping began his second term, the CPC took the lead in the entire Chinese political system and there began a growing trend to strengthen the “leadership of the party.”

2. Key players
o The key players and organizations in the CPC are as follows:
ㅇ The CPC National Congress is an organization that holds supreme authority in the CPC, and it consists of the Central Committee, the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee, the Central Secretariat, General Secretary, the Central Military Commission, and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
ㅇ Unofficial organizations called “Leading Small Groups (LSGs)” are part of China’s special task performance method, and LSGs have been seen to have a greater influence on policy-making than ever before since Xi Jinping started his second term.
- LSGs are formed for the launch and organization of specific tasks, as well as the legislation and management of related laws and projects.
ㅇ The Group Study Session of the CPC Central Committee’s Political Bureau (政治局集ooo), which has been held periodically since 2002 when Hu Jintao became the General Secretary of the CPC, is a venue in which the Chinese leadership grasps domestic and overseas situations by listening to regular lectures given by experts and exchanging opinions with those experts.

o The key players and bodies in the Chinese central government are as follows:
ㅇ Organizations representing the national people include the National People’s Congress (NPC), the president of the People’s Republic of China, the Central Military Commission, the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
- The State Council has unofficial LSGs as does the CPC.
- The executive meeting of the State Council, one of the court meetings, is held every week.

3. Major characteristics of the Chinese political system
o Based on the discussion above, the characteristics of the Chinese political system can be summarized as follows:
ㅇ The CPC exercises substantial influence on state agencies and maintains its influence on the government sector through the party, and policy decisions are made using experts’ advice in areas requiring expertise.

Ⅲ. Key Players in China’s Air Policy Decision-Making
o In March of 2018, the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a constitutional amendment that added “social and ecological” civilizations to “material, political and spiritual” civilizations.
ㅇ In 2013, the year after Xi Jinping took office, the State Council issued the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, also referred to as the “Action Plan.”
ㅇ China revised the Environmental Protection Law and announced a series of policies to protect the ecological environment, which were strongly enforced.
ㅇ According to the revised Government Organization Act of 2018, the Ministry of Environmental Protection was expanded to cover the related functions of other ministries and renamed the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
ㅇ To understand China’s decision-making, which focuses on the environment and air-quality management, we need to identify the players involved in the decision-making process and their roles.

1. Key players in the CPC and major organizations
o Playing the role of forming discourse on environmental policies, the CPC is in the central position of the power structure in policy decision-making.
ㅇ The CPC produces related policies based on macroscopic strategies and goals in relation to environmental and air policies.
ㅇ The CPC suggested and established not only a “view of scientific development,” one of the major pieces of discourse during the Hu Jintao era, but also “building of an ecological civilization,” a major piece of discourse on environmental policies during the Xi Jinping era.

o China’s economic and public administration policies, which include air-quality management, are managed by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council, and Han Zheng.
ㅇ Han Zheng, Senior Vice Premier of the State Council, is in charge of affairs relating to macroscopic economic planning, government budget and restructuring, economic development, social security, energy, natural resources, and the environment.
ㅇ Han Zheng also serves as the head of the Leading Small Group for Air Pollution Prevention in the Beijing- Tianjin-Hebei Region and Surrounding Areas (京津冀及周o地o大oo染防治oo小o).

o A total of 32 and 43 Group Study Sessions of the CPC Central Committee’s Political Bureau were held respectively in the 17th and 18th CPC Central Committees, which began in 2007.
ㅇ There were 2 group study sessions based around ecology and the environment in both the 17th and 18th CPC Central Committees.
ㅇ The ecology and environment themes made up 6.25% and 4.65% (low percentages) of all themes in both the 17th and 18th CPC Central Committees.

2. Key players in the Chinese government and major organizations
o As part of the government reorganization of 2018, the Ministry of Environmental Protection was expanded and reorganized to cover the tasks and functions of other ministries and renamed the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
ㅇ The Ministry of Ecology and Environment is responsible for air management, and air affairs are managed by the Air and Environment Officer (大oo境司), a position at the same level as secretaries and directors in the Korean government.
ㅇ The Project of Identifying the Causes of Serious Air Pollution Problems and Managing and Solving the Problems (大o重o染成因o治理攻oo目) is managed under the direction of the Leading Small Group for Identifying the Causes of Serious Air Pollution Problems and Managing and Solving the Problems (大o重o染成因o治理攻ooo小o), which was established within the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in 2017.
- The National Center for Air Pollution Prevention and Control was established as a platform to manage this project.

o In the State Council, there is an unofficial organization named the Leading Small Group for the Air Pollution Prevention in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and Surrounding Areas.
ㅇ In September of 2013, China issued their so-called “Action Plan,” which includes ten key actions to reduce air pollution, as well as a series of measures, and undertook a reorganization of the structure.
- The Cooperative Small Group for the Air Pollution Prevention in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and Surrounding Areas (京津冀及周o地o大oo染防治o作小o), chaired by Beijing’s Communist Party Secretary, was formed in October of 2013, to effectively manage and implement the air pollution prevention policies in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region based on the aforementioned Action Plan.
- Afterward, in July of 2018, Han Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was appointed as the head of the Cooperative Small Group with the awareness that effective air pollution management was necessary at the central government level.
- The Cooperative Small Group was upgraded to the Leading Small Group for the Air Pollution Prevention in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and Surrounding Areas under the State Council. This Leading Small Group was temporarily formed and operated.

o The China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development was founded in 1992 as an advisory body consisting of domestic and international high-ranking officials and experts with the approval of the Chinese government.
ㅇ The office of the CCICED Chairperson is a position at the same level as the Vice Premier of the State Council. Currently, Han Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council, serves as the CCICED Chairperson.
ㅇ The major roles of the CCICED include sharing successful experiences with foreign countries in the areas of the international environment and development and providing policy suggestions to the Chinese government leadership and policy makers of different levels.

Ⅳ. China’s Air Policy Decision-Making and its Implications
1. China’s air policy decision-making system
o Inferring that China’s decision-making structure takes the form of a general policy-making system that consists of three phases-input, process, and outputs, the system can be summarized as follows:
ㅇ The major paths of discourse relating to air policies are decided by the CPC obviously, and air policy agendas are prepared by air policy departments. Those departments also lead the formulation of air policies.
- The LSG formed within the Ministry of Ecology and Environment manages the Air Pollution Problem Management and Solving Project and collects various issues to put on their policy agendas. Air policy agendas are automatically created by the State Council.
- The State Council is in charge of collecting the opinions of different departments. It releases a draft of collected opinions (征求意o稿), which is prepared internally based on discussions and debates, to collect opinions.
ㅇ The final draft is discussed by the Leading Small Group for the Air Pollution Prevention in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and Surrounding Areas under the State Council, which is a core body in China’s air policy decision-making.
- The decision-making is followed by an Executive Meeting of the State Council in which related matters are discussed. After that, related departments hold external briefings and air policies are issued in the name of the State Council or joint government departments, all official government bodies.
- Based on the policies issued by departments in the central government, related policies are issued at the provincial level.

2. Major characteristics of China’s air policy decision-making
o The major characteristics of China’s air policy decision-making are as follows:
ㅇ Officially, decisions on China’s air policies are supposed to be made by the government; in reality, however, the CPC is thought to be the actual decision maker owing to the distinct characteristics of the Chinese political system.
ㅇ Air policy decisions are made in the line of duty. Of administrative departments, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment plays the leading role.
ㅇ Air policy decisions are not made in a top-down way. Instead, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which holds primary responsibility, prepares and submits opinions along with related departments and provincial governments.
- The agendas and opinions are coordinated and discussed by the State Council and the LSG.
ㅇ The CPC and the leadership of the government have expertise in related fields.
ㅇ China intends to make air policy decisions based on scientific information provided by experts in air pollution management.

3. Implications
o Various measures can be suggested for air pollution reduction and Korea-China cooperation. However, the real priority is that the two countries share the same perception on air pollution issues.
ㅇ After such a shared perception has been formed, institutional cooperation between the two countries will have a practical effect.
ㅇ Based on the results of this study, intergovernmental and civil cooperation focused on institutional aspects to enhance cooperation for air pollution reduction is suggested below.

o For intergovernmental cooperation, it is suggested/recommended that we focus on the Chinese leadership in negotiations as China is under relatively low public pressure.
ㅇ Strengthen the existing official channels for cooperation with China’s high-level policy makers for the sake of air pollution management at the central government level and diversify cooperative channels.
ㅇ Consider forming a high-level consultative group in addition to the existing minister-level meetings of the Korean and Chinese environment ministers
ㅇ Facilitate cooperation based on inter-party human networks
ㅇ If it is difficult to upgrade channels for discussing air pollution reduction as suggested above, seek to build human networks with members of Chinese organizations, such as LSGs

o Seek to build relationships that are half-civil and half-governmental in the academic sector
ㅇ Utilize the existing official venues of contact, such as Korea-China forums, or make new venues of contact to expand human networks

4. Limitations of this study
o This study has the following limitations.
ㅇ The content of this study needs to be verified using cases involving China’s air policy decision-making.
ㅇ This study needs to be supplemented in the future because it fails to consider the overall policy and law-making process of China, including the legislation process, although it examines the air policy decision-making at the central government level of China.
ㅇ Participation from the Chinese civil society, including expert groups, is limited, yet growing. Therefore, such participation needs to be examined in further studies.