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J Environ Manage. 2012 Nov 30;111:227-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.07.025. Epub 2012 Aug 30.

Explaining the enforcement gap in China: local government support and internal agency obstacles as predictors of enforcement actions in Guangzhou.

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  • 1Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


This study investigates how local government support for enforcement and internal agency obstacles explain the enforcement gap in Guangzhou, China. It was found that agency obstacles associated with insufficient resources and job ambiguity, in particular, affect enforcement officials' perceptions of enforcement difficulty. Somewhat more surprisingly, however, local government support was not found to be a significant predictor of these perceptions. In addition, this study identified four significant relationships associated with specific enforcement actions. First and second, perceptions of enforcement difficulty appear to lead to fewer inspections, but also have a weak positive effect on the frequency of fines levied. Third, poor coordination within the bureau was found to be associated with fewer violations being processed. Fourth, and contrary to expectations, local government support was found to suppress the frequency of inspections while having no significant effect on violations or fines. Overall, these findings suggest that increased local government support for the enforcement of environmental regulation in China may not necessarily lead to more rigorous enforcement, at least if enforcement rigor is measured in terms of inspections, citations and fines.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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