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Tang, "Environmental protection and democratization: Pollution control, and local self-governance in Taiwan," 1998

USC dissertation in Political Science.
August 24, 2009

Ching-Ping Tang, Ph.D

Abstract (Summary)

Democratization, in theory, may create both positive and negative impacts on a country's environmental protection. Yet most empirical studies have shown democratic regimes as having superior environmental records than authoritarian ones. This dissertation further explores such superiority by examining how political and institutional changes during democratization in Taiwan have affected local enforcement of national environmental regulations.

The study examines the responses of six local jurisdictions--Taipei County, Hsin-chu City, Tai-chung County, Chia-yi County, Kee-long City, and Kao-hsiung Municipality--to a new national policy in 1996 that urged local jurisdictions to adopt a less adversarial approach to pollution regulation enforcement. As shown by statistics on air and water pollution control enforcement, the first three jurisdictions have increased their pollution fines in the following year, seemingly in contradiction to the national policy. The later three jurisdictions have drastically reduced their pollution fines, seemingly in compliance with the national policy. These two groups of local jurisdictions are compared with reference to several institutional political and socio-economic factors that may affect policy implementation, regulatory enforcement, and administrative control. Special attention is given to how democratization has shaped these various factors.

Several findings are generated from the six-case comparison. First, several factors on the supply side of the local policy process--environmental conscience of local leaders, structures of the local constituency, and career opportunities of local leaders--are found to have major impacts on local enforcement efforts. Second, most socio-economic factors that presumably would generate stronger demands for pollution enforcement are found to have no consistent impact on enforcement efforts. This lack of responsiveness is partly due to an inadequate development of democratic institutions that can help prevent agency capture by special interests. Third, the new democratic environment, nonetheless, has provided additional channels for environmental groups to press their environmental demands. Fourth, the influence of the central government on local jurisdictions has diminished during democratization, thus undermining the ability of the country to deal with environmental problems that are national or regional in scope.

Advisor: Tang, Shui-Yan