Case 2: China's Air Pollution Control Policy Goes Local

Case 2 investigates how China’s newly launched and highly prioritised 'PM2.5 air pollution prevention' policy is implemented locally.

Photo: Anna L. Ahlers

The Chinese central government’s new air quality protection policy, the so-called “PM2.5 and PM10 policy” (included in the “Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution” (大气污染防治行动计划) of 2013), is one of several examples of how resolutely all authorities now aim at reducing ambient air pollutants. PM pollutants are considered the main source of China’s current airpocalypse and a special and immediate target to battle.

In this process, each locality in China has to interpret and implement this national policy initiative in tune with local conditions. This entails, for example, that development plans have to be redesigned, local industries need to be harnessed or even shut down, and curbs in individual consumption modes have to be pushed through. This brings about new challenges and chances for multilateral cooperation, public-private partnerships, media work, and innovative social governance (社会治理), which will be studied in this project.

Our hypothesis in case 2 is that the centrally announced battle in China against air pollution now requires highly skillful mediation of various political, social and economic interests, including participation of local actors such as NGOs and new media; and that this happens in much more diverse ways than often assumed.

Implementing PM2.5 at the local level

To investigate the local interaction that follows from centrally developed policies, Airborne's case 2 team will study the implementation of PM2.5 reduction measures in different municipalities across China. Research has started in Hangzhou City (Zhejiang Province) in 2014/15.

Localities chosen will have very different points of departure for dealing with the new policy: They, for example, display varying levels of industrial development and attached economic interests, are exposed to different geographical and meteorological conditions, and host a divergent spectrum of civil society engagement.

Analysing national environmental policy in a local context

Airborne's interdisciplinary research team will examine how the new PM2.5 policy is received and dealt with by local authorities. The research will explore how the new policy framework complements or overrules existing local approaches, and how the various parties, cleavages and conflicts are addressed and/or included in what materializes as final PM2.5 policy “on the ground”.


Interviews with representatives of relevant government departments and other involved actors, a study of official documents and scientific articles on the subjects, an analysis of conventional and social media, project site visits, and exchange with local experts on the subject.


Published June 15, 2015 4:20 PM - Last modified Nov. 22, 2017 2:37 PM