To tackle serious environmental problems and overcome the negative impact of an almost exclusively Gross Domestic Product (GDP) oriented performance management, a number of local governments in China have started to establish and promote Environmental Protection Performance Evaluation (EPPE) systems for their cadres since the early 2000s. How these systems work in practice within their wider administrative context has not been examined so far. This paper makes a first attempt to assess the efficacy of this EPPE system by looking at its indicator system, the policy process around it, its political implications, and its actual environmental consequences. It does so for the case of Shenzhen, one of China's most forward-looking cities in terms of socio-economic development and political reform. We find that the system can be flexibly used and does push environmental interests higher up the agenda of the local government, but is negatively affected by high levels of uncertainty in its actual use and the strict hierarchy of its application. The main impact of EPPE is on the impression municipal leaders have of the evaluated cadres and on their reputation among their peers, both indirect factors for their political career and thus incentives for the local environmental management. Empirical data show that Shenzhen's environmental quality has not changed significantly in the past five years, although an overall improvement should have been visible if the EPPE systems worked as intended. From this perspective, the efficacy of the EPPE system remains low. At the end a number of policy recommendations are given to enhance the system's effectiveness and fairness.
- Administrative practice
- Environmental protection performance evaluation
- Local government