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“Crossing A River By Groping For Stones”: Factors Reshaping The Policy Innovation Process For Chinese Water Policies

Author: C. KAYE BRAGG
Published in PAQ, Vol. 27 No. 3

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Chinese leaders initiated a multifaceted
process of reform through agricultural decollectivization, township
and village enterprises, market liberalization, and international
engagements. On the one hand, these reforms produced a stunning
record of economic growth documented in per capita GDP, exports,
and foreign capital investments. On the other hand, these reforms
produced unforeseen social and political consequences such as tax
riots, labor strikes, environmental, anti-corruption, and gender protests.
These patterns of conflict are not just responses to the reforms but also
redefine the power, authority, and reach of the state. Each pattern
weaves a new state-society relationship that is transforming policymaking.
This research examines new patterns of entrepreneurship in the policy
debates of the Three Gorges Project since 1986. The study documents
innovations initiated by a configuration of actors outside the traditional
Chinese organizational and leadership bases. The debates over “transparency
in dam construction” and “consultation in resettlement
programs” describe high risk entrepreneurship by redefining issues to
build a support coalition inside and outside the Chinese political system.
New forums develop from intellectual circles, societal-economic
interests, international non-governmental organiza-tions, and popular
dissent for innovation. This pattern of entrepreneurship is characterized
not be a single entrepreneur but by a pooling of resources and power
among social actors for innovation.

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