Implementing Water Policies in China: A Policy Cycle Analysis of the Sponge City Program Using Two Case Studies

Xiao Liang, Yuqing Liang*, Chong Chen, Meine Pieter van Dijk

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study carries out an in-depth analysis of urban water policy implementation in China through a policy cycle analysis and case study of Sponge city program. The policy cycle analysis articulates discrete steps within the policy formulation and implementation process, while the case studies reflect the specific problems in water project implementation. Because of the principal–agent relation between central and local government, a ‘‘double wheel’’ policy cycle model is adopted to reflect the policy cycles at central level and at local level. Changde city and Zhuanghe city, two demo cities in the Sponge city program, are chosen for the analysis. The policy cycle analysis shows that the central government orders local government to implement policy without clear direction on how to attract private sector participation. The evaluation of central government did not include private sector involvement, nor the sustainability of the investments. This promotes the local government’s pursuit of project construction completion objectives, without seriously considering private sector involvement and operation and maintenance (O&M) cost. The local governments do not have political motivation and experiences to attract private investments into project implementation. The case study in the two demo cities shows that local government subsidies are the main source of O&M funding currently, which is not sustainable. The water projects are not financially feasible because no sufficient revenue is generated to cover the high initial investments and O&M cost. The lack of private sector involvement makes it difficult to maintain adequate funding in O&M, leading to the unsustainability of the water projects. It is not easy to achieve private sector involvement, but it could be the key to realizing urban water resilience in a more sustainable way.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5261
Number of pages12
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

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