Books: A Trilogy

On the Environmental Politics and Governance of China

1. The Political Regulation Wave:

A Case of How Local Incentives Systematically Shape Air Quality in China

(Forthcoming at Cambridge University Press)

Short summary: Reducing air pollution, a leading cause of death, has become a critical goal worldwide.  Why has there been uneven success even in the same locality over time?  This book offers the first full theorization of how local political incentives can systematically affect bureaucratic regulation and compares the cases of sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter control in autocratic China and, to a lesser extent, in democratic Mexico.  Utilizing new data, approaches, and techniques across political science, environmental sciences, and engineering—the first of its kind, Shen finds that top prefectural leaders in China were incentivized to cater to the policy preferences of their superiors who valued gradual improvement in key areas, giving rise to systematically varying levels of regulatory stringency during the leaders’ tenures.  Shen shows that when ambiguity dilutes regulatory effectiveness, having the right incentives and enhanced monitoring is insufficient for successful policy implementation.  Instead, understanding the nature of a policy (e.g., a pollutant’s particular characteristics) is just as important.  The book concludes with policy recommendations for more effective environmental planning.

A preview of the book and a discussion of its implications for China’s climate policies is available here:


2. China Tackles Climate Change:

The Emerging Politics of Local Climate Actions

(Under development)

More information to come.


3. The Renewable Energy Investment Gap:

How Domestic Politics in Recipient Countries Impede the Greening of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

(Under development)

More information to come.