Strictest nature conservation: China's national park policy underpinned by power shift and turf dynamic

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Abstract

China initiated the national park policy in 2015 to achieve the strictest nature conservation. This study pointed out that the core of this policy is to increase central authority. Hence, adopting the bureaucratic politics and Actor-centered Power theory, the study aimed to analyze the power shift and turf dynamics among ministries in the national park policy process. Based on the evidence, the study found that before 2015, ministries' overlapping turfs in managing protected areas weakened the central coercion of local nature conservation, resulting in excessive exploitation of these areas. To enhance conservation effectiveness, top leaders initiated the national park policy. Top leaders reclaimed ministerial turfs through coercive power, whereas, utilized the ownership of the national park policy to incentivize them to participate in pilots. Ultimately, the 2018 ministry reform led to the State Forestry and Grassland Administration acquiring turf over protected areas including national parks. At the same time, top leaders maintained the potential coercion through information provided by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment that retained supervision authority over national parks. This ministerial restructuring established robust national park administrations, breaking local power patterns and strengthening the central control on nature conservation, which ensures the strictest nature conservation. This study contributed to understanding Chinese national park policy based on the perspective of political science. Furthermore, it provided an analytical framework of power and turf for research on bureaucratic politics.

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Zhang, P., Zhao, J., & Krott, M. (2023). Strictest nature conservation: China’s national park policy underpinned by power shift and turf dynamic. Forest Policy and Economics, 154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2023.103033

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