Policy Accumulation in China: A Longitudinal Analysis of Circular Economy Initiatives

Wenting Ma*, Thomas Hoppe, Martin de Jong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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In response to the mounting environmental problems the circular economy (CE) has become a popular policy concept to achieve sustainable production and consumption goals (SDG12). In line with this China's national government has issued and implemented a series of policies over the last fifteen years, leading to a sudden increase in the volume of CE policies. In the literature this phenomenon is referred to as ‘policy accumulation’, a concept which occurs when governments adopt increasingly more policy than they terminate. In the case of China, the question can be raised how CE policy accumulation has manifested. The present paper analyses policy on national policy spanning 2006–2021 and uses expert interviews to gain more insights in factors driving policy accumulation. Results show that after a stable period with limited growth (2006–2015) government issued increasing numbers of policy over 2016–2021. CE policy goals experienced a shift in focus from improving production efficiency via lowering of consumption patterns, to embracing whole life cycle thinking. CE policy instruments moved from predominantly economic instruments (2006–2015) to regulatory instruments along with accompanying communicative and network instruments (2016–2021), which indicates a move from a market and innovation policy approach to a more centralized model emphasizing hierarchical instruments. Several factors explain for CE policy accumulation: (i) a response to economic growth and environmental degradation; (ii) national government institutions, their interests and agendas; and (iii) policy learning. Implications pertain to future research critically analyzing CE policy accumulation in other contexts or in sub-domains regarding topics referring to SDG12.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-504
Number of pages15
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors thank three anonymous reviewers and editors for their
feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors express
their gratitude to the experts for accepting interviews. This work was
funded by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities
(Grant No. HIT.HSS.202220), the Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences Planning of Guangdong Province (Grant No.GD22YGL09), the
Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences Planning of Shenzhen (SZ2022B040), and Scientific Research Staring Foundation. This work
was supported by Sino-Dutch Joint Laboratory on Carbon Neutral Technology and Policy, Shenzhen Humanities & Social Sciences Key Research
Base. This work was supported by the Dutch Research Council under Grant [No. 482.19.608] and the National Natural Science Foundation of
China under Grant [No. 72061137071].

Publisher Copyright: © 2022


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