Ramona Hägele, Chapter VIII: Nudging with Chinese Characteristics: An Adapted Approach from the Global North to Achieve a Sustainable Future? in:

Nele Noesselt (Ed.)

Reassessing Chinese Politics, page 172 - 200

National System Dynamics and Global Implications

1. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4325-7, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7265-3,

Series: East Asian Politics: Regional and Global Dynamics, vol. 1

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
172 Chapter VIII: Nudging with Chinese Characteristics: An Adapted Approach from the Global North to Achieve a Sustainable Future? Ramona Hägele Introduction “There is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B’. We have to work and galvanize our action.” A well-known statement by former United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon (Husain 2015), these somber words summarize the currently experienced pressure on the global environment on the grounds of industrialization, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, air pollution, natural resource exploitation, and the proliferation of other manmade activities that increase greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). Mainly individuals’ lifestyles and behaviors, such as an increase in living standards globally and a corresponding rise in food consumption, are responsible for this environmental degradation. More precisely, with the ever-increasing use of energy, water, fossil fuels, as well as due to agriculture, deforestation, and animal husbandry, GHGE, air pollutants, and water scarcity have risen substantially over time (Crutzen 2006: 14–15). These emissions have resulted in global warming, climate change, and environmental degradation (Knoepfel 2002). Therefore, national environmental policies—as well as international agreements—are now attempting to mitigate climate change and environmental degradation. However, due to the ineffectiveness of these national policies and the lack of legally binding international agreements, the planet is still facing unprecedented environmental threats and challenges (Simões 2016). In addition, environmental problems are associated with the increase in the global population and middle classes—and their growing demands for goods and services, which will significantly increase GHGE. The expansion of the world population to 9.6 billion people by 2050 (UN DESA 2017: 1), and the expected 160 million people per year that will join the middle class globally (Kharas 2017: 13), are set to put further strain on finite natural resources (Ehlers and Krafft 2006: 7). However, the UN underlines that this growing population will hold a leading role in the realization of the 2030 Agenda (UN DESA 2017: 173 1)71. Therefore, finding drivers and means are extremely important to shape the new middle classes’ behavior toward a more sustainable lifestyle, since they do have a choice to, for example, consume low-carbon products due to their increasing wages (Never 2017a). The emerging middle classes are characterized as new consumers (Schor 1999) since they will purchase luxury goods such as cars, smartphones, and meat, which will significantly increase GHGE. These new consumers will also develop new purchasing behaviors causing increased emissions, especially if they follow the same consumption patterns as the industrialized countries (Kharas 2017: 2). Particularly countries of the Global South, such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC)72 and India, are facing challenges to maintain their economic growth while preserving the environment and meeting the demands of a growing population and middle class (Bussolo et al. 2007; Davis 2000; Li 2010). Therefore, a reexamination of traditional policy instruments is necessary in order to implement environmental ones more successfully and so as to galvanize individual action. Governments need to address and meet the growing needs of the middle classes in a sustainable manner. Since governments have committed themselves to implementing the 2030 Agenda, environmental policy is one major policy field that can contribute to the definitive achievement of the related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by creating new approaches. A special focus on individual behavior is crucial, since all persons should contribute to the implementation and achievement of the Agenda as part of its aims to protect and preserve the environment for future generations, for example by reducing their waste and making thoughtful decisions on what to consume (UNGA 2015: 12). Plenty of research on the emerging middle classes in the Global South and their impact on future consumption trends has emerged over the past two decades (Kharas 2010; Easterly 2000; Banerjee/Duflo 2007; Schor 1999). More recently, and with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the focus has shifted to the environmental impact of the middle classes’ consumption (Never 2017a; Ridzuan et al. 2017) and to the influence of sustainable consumption trends (Vassallo/Scalvedi/Saba 2016; Biswas/Roy 2015). Combining this research with theories and concepts from Behavioral Science, such as Political Psychology, can provide insight into why people behave and choose as they do, and also offer policymakers the opportunity to intervene in individuals ’ 71 The 2030 Agenda, with its seventeen goals for sustainable development, was first set by the UN in 2015. Resolution A/RES/70/1, an intergovernmental agreement, was signed by 193 countries (UNGA 2015). 72 Henceforth I will use the term “China” to refer to the PRC, mainland China. 174 preferences (Dolan et al. 2010; Dawnay/Shah 2005; Service et al. 2014). This enables them to shape individuals’ environment-related behavior in the direction of low-carbon and sustainable choices. Using Behavioral Insights as an Approach to Achieving a Greener Future Policymakers in industrialized countries already use the insights of Behavioral Science, such as the Nudge Theory, to craft government interventions (Dolan et al. 2010). Nowadays, “nudging” is a well-known approach in the Global North and has been ever since the publication of the influential book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Thaler and Sunstein in 2008. Nudging is a process that modifies people’s behavior without changing their economic incentives (Thaler/Sunstein 2009: 6). The Nudge Theory implies that people are gently pushed in a direction without imposing any restriction on the choices that they make. Therefore, changing the “choice architecture” of humans will lead to more efficient ways of governing (Kosters/van der Heijden 2015: 278). The choice architecture is the environment in which decisions are made (John et al. 2013: 13), which also includes timing and context (Brian 2014: 838). Thaler and Sunstein advise policymakers to work with individuals’ biases and to anchor their points of reference, so as to create beneficial policies and governance interventions—instead of simply assuming individuals have vast information-processing capacities (John 2016: 119). The knowledge of how individuals make their decisions combined with complementary nudging tools, commonly known as “nudges,” can lead to behavior change—as a number of studies have revealed (Baca-Motes et al. 2013; Benartzi/Thaler 2004; Johnson/Goldstein 2003). Especially for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s goals, nudging as governance intervention tool73 in different policy fields—but particularly in environmental policy—could be used to shape individuals’ behavior toward sustainability (Ölander/Thøgersen 2014). However, the use of such insights within the environmental policies of the Global South is still poorly examined. There has been a lot of 73 In this essay, a “governance intervention tool” is understood as a governance instrument that steers a society through the actions taken by a given government. Thereby I am referring to the “governance” definition of Bell and Hindmoor (2009). They emphasize the state-centric aspects of governance, “in which governments frequently still intervene hierarchically to achieve their policy goals” (ibid.: 158). 175 research on the implementation of nudging and the use of “behavioral insights” in the politics of several countries of the Global North, such as Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States (Dolan et al. 2010; John et al. 2013: 119-123). Detailed analyses of the potential use of nudges in politics or within specific policy fields in the Global South are missing, however. More precisely, focus on environmental policy and complementary fields has been neglected hitherto. Environmental policy has, as such, so far failed to address the correlation between individual behavior and environmental degradation (Simões 2016: 2). Individuals can be agents of environmental change, since their behavior and decisions cause environmental problems; at the same time, however, individuals are key to longterm solutions too. The lack of attention given to the individual-environment interaction is significant, because knowing about these linkages will provide benefit for environmental policymakers in the Global South. Thus the research gap arising from the neglect of Behavioral Science research in countries of the Global South, as well as a lack of focus on individual behavior within environmental policy, are important shortcomings to be overcome. Combining these findings with the pressing problems of climate change and environmental degradation, the growing middle class in Asia particularly, as well as the ineffectiveness of related policies and the overarching target of achieving the SDGs makes this essay even more relevant. Consequently, it aims to contribute to filling these research lacunae by examining how far China is using behavioral insights and Nudge Theory to implement its own specific environmental policies. From Econs to Humans: Why Humans Behave as They Do To comprehend the potential use of nudges in China’s environmental policies, the underlying heuristics and biases on which Nudge Theory is based must be first identified and understood. Policymakers need to know how people think, behave, and make decisions. This is especially relevant if they want to steer behavior in the direction of sustainability (Never 2017b). The “Dual Processing Theory” states that there are two kinds of thinking. One is an automatic system of thought by which people process information intuitively, effortlessly, emotionally, uncontrolled, and swiftly. The second is a reflective system, which is a rational, conscious, effortful, logical, controlled, and slow way of thinking. The two systems 176 divide their labor in terms of severity: while the automatic system handles familiar situations, the reflective one manages difficult events that its automatic counterpart cannot process (Kahneman 2011: 33, 38). However, humans often tend to make mistakes when they rely too much on their automatic system and do not use their reflective one sufficiently. From the interplay between the automatic and the reflective systems, heuristics and biases emerge (Thaler/Sunstein 2009: 19–23). In decision-making processes, three heuristics—representativeness; availability; anchoring and adjustment—and their associated biases can play a key role. “Representativeness,” also known as the “similarity heuristic,” is a process in which people evaluate probabilities—for example, that category A belongs to class B, while connecting their perception of A to their stereotype of B—which often leads to serious misconceptions and biases. The “availability heuristic” is a judgmental one meanwhile. People tend to assess the frequency or probability of an event or a risk, and generally tend to be more frightened or concerned if they can think of one that is familiar to them. Hence biases due to the retrievability of instances, biases of imaginability, or illusory correlation emerge (Tversky/Kahneman 1974: 1124–1128). The third heuristic, “anchoring and adjustment,” describes the tendency to anchor oneself to a given number of computations no matter how unrelated such a pre-given value might be. Typically, the subsequent of such a judgement is insufficient (Kahneman 2011: 152). Besides the abovementioned heuristics, there are others that influence decision-making too. For example, optimism and overconfidence are pervasive features of humanity (Thaler/Sunstein 2009: 33). They are characterized by the fact that people tend to overestimate their immunity to harm (ibid.). Likewise, loss aversion—the anxiety of losing something and therefore sticking with current holdings—makes it difficult for humans to make a change (Tversky/Quattrone 1988: 719). Such aversion—but also a status quo bias—leads to inertia. This bias is known as the tendency of human beings to maintain their status, since they are too lazy to change certain behaviors (Marcus 2013: 270–273). All these mental shortcuts and heuristics are used by individuals to simplify their environment. However heuristics can also lead to serious biases at the same time, such as overlooking opportunities or self-delusion (Kahneman 2011: 42). Besides these heuristics and cognitive processes, personality, values, identity, group behavior, attitudes, and emotions all affect decision-making as well and can also lead to biases forming. These heuristics and influences on behavior are also deeply embedded in political life, because these are very human tendencies and have endless reach into all political and social spheres. Since our brains are 177 capable of shifting from one interpretation to another, we are indeed able to change our behavior from one value, policy, or ideology to another (Marcus 2013: 137). This insight is crucial when it comes to designing governance interventions to consciously influence human behavior. As individuals do certainly have the capacity at least to alter their values, attitudes, norms, and the like, policymakers can draw on that knowledge to help achieve the desired (political) behavior. This is where Nudge Theory sets in. It tries to understand heuristics, influences on human behavior, and inherent biases in order to change lifestyle preferences toward more advantageous ones by influencing a person’s environment—also known, as noted earlier, as their choice architecture (John et al. 2013: 13). Hereby Thaler and Sunstein (2009: 6–7) as well as Kahneman (2011: 331–332) are critical of the neoclassical concept of Homo economicus, and agree instead with Simon’s (1957) concept of “bounded rationality.” In their view, the individual is a person who is unable to behave economically correct ; in other words, individuals are not “Econs” (Homo economicus), who act in their own best interest, they are “humans” (Homo sapiens), who are not as behaviorally consistent as Econs. People generally tend to act in a more generous than selfish way, although they are aware of not acting in their own best interest in so doing (Ariely 2008; Cialdini 2007). This implies that individuals make the wrong decision even when a rational assessment occurs. Nudges can shift this decision-making toward more optimal choices being made. Since many environmental problems are the result of individuals ’ both direct and indirect decisions and behavior, nudging is experiencing growing popularity in policy designs and is seen as an innovative form of governance intervention (Blum/Schubert 2018: 120). Especially, individuals’ consumption patterns and lifestyles are both the core of and the potential solution to environmental problems (Simões 2016: 2). Usually, governments apply ineffective traditional environmental policy instruments—ones that only rely on the reflective system of thinking. Therefore behavioral environmental policies, also known as “green nudges,” are potentially very effective governance interventions that can help achieve pro-environment choices, because they influence the individual’s both automatic and reflective systems and thereby encourage people to voluntarily contribute to protect ing the global commons (Michalek et al. 2015: 2, 11; Oullier/Sauneron 2011; Schubert 2017: 331). 178 The Global Dilemma is a Chinese Dilemma As mentioned before, since there still exists a research gap in the examination of the use of Nudge Theory and regarding behavioral insights in the environmental policies of the Global South then an analysis of China’s will contribute to this gap’s closing. China serves as a suitable case study here for a number of reasons: First, the government has committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda and thereby to improving, changing, or creating policies for its achievement. By analyzing these new policies, nudging tools may be identified. Second, China is the largest developing country with the world’s fastest-growing middle class and has to meet their soaring demands (Davis 2000; Li 2010).74 In addition, 60 percent of the world’s people live in Asia—with China being the outright most populous country on the planet (UN DESA 2017: 1). With a growing population and middle class, production and consumption will concomitantly also increase. Thereby, GHGE—and especially carbon dioxide emissions—will rise significantly (Ridzuan et al. 2017). Third, China has the highest CO2 emissions worldwide (World Bank 2014). It is particularly the country’s urban middle class rather than its rural population that is responsible for this, due to their burgeoning consumption (Wiedenhofer et al. 2017: 75). This makes effective policies even more urgent. Fourth, as China is currently experiencing pressure from both outside and within the country itself, it needs to adopt a green economy. On the one hand, China is facing domestic pressures—such as a decrease of growth in gross domestic product from 6.9 percent in 2010 to 5.2 percent by 2030 (World Bank 2017; Bussolo et al. 2007: 16).75 Short-term economic growth is still prioritized in policies overall (Wang/Lin 2010), which is why the country continues to face the challenge of protecting its environment while also sustaining economic progress. The main obstacle for the government to overcome is the possible emergence of a long-term crisis, since the demand for environmental protection is rising and the expenses for fulfilling this environmentalism are higher than the economy can yield (Guang 2017). Moreover, China is facing mounting environmental protests, social unrest (Deng/Yang 2013; Goebel/Ong 2012; Steinhardt/Wu 2015), as well as a growing number of environmental 74 China is still characterized as a developing country by the World Bank (2018), since: “Its per capita income is still a fraction of that in advanced countries”; “its market reforms are incomplete”; and, fifty-five million people are ranked as poor in rural areas by the Chinese current poverty standard (ibid.). 75 Such growth is the “[a]nnual percentage growth rate of GDP at market prices based on constant local currency. Aggregates are based on constant 2010 US dollars” (World Bank 2017). 179 refugees and internal migrants who have been displaced either voluntarily or involuntarily by ecological problems (Myers 2002: 609). On the other hand, there is also pressure felt from outside the country. China carries responsibility for global warming and pollution, as its environmental policies have an impact on the whole world (Zhang/Wen 2008: 1249). With increased external leveraging for it to implement environmental policies combined with the expansion of the country’s population and middle class, the Chinese government is obliged to act accordingly. Since 1992, sustainable development has been determined a national strategy of China. However, the country still faces problems in the formulation and implementation of its environmental policies—especially regarding sustainable land use, as well as improvements of its air and water quality (Beyer 2006: 187; Zhang/Wen 2008: 1249). Therefore the government is already trying to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and has initiated domestic efforts so as to tackle climate risks—for example by the achievement of its GHGE reduction targets of 2016 in twenty-seven out of its total thirty-one regions (Stanway 2018). It has also contributed hereto via its launching of the world’s largest emission-trading system in December of 2017; it was implemented in seven Chinese provinces in 2013, and will significantly reduce carbon emissions (UN Climate Change 2017). However the previous approach of law-based governance, such as regulation and enforcement mechanisms, in the implementation of its environmental policies and laws has not helped achieve sustainable development in China. This is due to weak institutional capacities, strong interest groups, and the ongoing anthropocentric worldview of Chinese society (Wang/He/Fan 2014; Wang 2010: 1207; Marquis/Zhang/Zhou 2011: 45–46). Finally, however, if China’s use of behavioral governance interventions in environmental policy turns out to be successful, their policy implications could be transferred to other societies too (Zhang/Wen 2013: 1249). By using behavioral insights and nudges to formulate and implement its environmental policies more successfully, China could show how a small clipping can contribute to solving a large global problem—and thereby become a global role model. From a High-Speed, Resource-Intense Trajectory to the Idea of an Ecological Civilization “Ecological civilization” (shengtai wenming) has been a policy—and simultaneously an overarching strategy—of China’s government since 180 2007, encompassing numerous plans, laws, and budgets. It can be perceived as a new state of China’s environmental policies, following the scientific concept of “development and ecological modernization” in the early years of the new century. Ecological civilization aims to achieve the alignment of economic development and the conservation of the environment within its home country and society. The notion behind this guiding concept is linked to the objective of achieving a xiaokang (“all-round well-off”) society (Simões 2016: 1). Ecological civilization can be understood as a “synthesis of new modernization, good environmental governance and [a] revival of traditional ecological wisdom” (Huan 2016: 60). The concept is a genuine transformation from the previous growth model toward the “New Normal”76 (Geall 2015; Hilton/Kerr 2016), since it reflects the change in the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) understanding of economic growth. While focusing on economic development in the past, the Party is now realizing the importance of sustainability—not only in terms of economic but also of political, cultural, and social development too. These new goals include all citizens and nature, and are supported by strong high-level signals (Meng 2012). In the following, by analyzing the construction of an “ecological civilization” and by looking at the Environmental Protection Law (EPL) based on the policy cycle, this chapter will examine processes of policy formulation and implementation with regard to the use of nudges and the inclusion of behavioral insights. The goal of achieving an ecological civilization was formulated by the CPC and enshrined in its Constitution in 2012 (Constitution of the CPC 2017: 6). Thereby, the CPC announced that it would lead the way in building a socialist society existing in accordance with harmony between humankind and nature (ibid.). Further, “[i]t shall strengthen the philosophy underlying ecological civilization that nature should be respected, adapted to, and protected” (ibid.: 6). The government has announced that it will use a topdown design by improving existing regulations, laws, and policies (Simões 2016: 3). Analyzing documents such as the “Central Document Number 12 – “Opinions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Further Promoting the Development 76 The “New Normal” not only refers to a shift in the economic development model, but to a revision also of China’s governance model by transforming state-society interactions and central-local relations (Noesselt 2017: 322). In a rhetorical sense, Chinese leaders use the term ‘New Normal’ to increase their legitimacy and “to calm people’s concerns regarding the unpredictable outcomes of currently occurring deep reforms and restructuring processes” (ibid. : 323). 181 of Ecological Civilization” of 2015 (henceforth, Central Document), the reports of the 18th and 19th Party Congresses (2012 and 2017 respectively), and the report on environment and development by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED 2016), it becomes clear that the Chinese government particularly targets individual behavior. This it does by formulating and applying non-regulatory policy instruments, ones that can indeed be categorized as nudges. In addition, a combination of traditional governance interventions and nudges can also been identified herein. The government especially focuses on public information campaigns that are used as a policy intervention to encourage individuals to voluntarily change their behavior, and which as such can be categorized as informational nudges. China’s Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie announced in 2012 that information columns were to be set up in the media so as to inform the public on environmental policies, laws, and regulations, since education is key to environmentally friendly decisions being taken. “[T]he seeds of ecological civilization [shall be planted] in industries, companies, schools, communities, and families” (Li 2012), who are all the core audiences of informational nudges. In the Central Document, individual and public participation, the role of environmental nongovernmental organizations, as well as greater environmental transparency are heavily promoted by the government. Besides this, nationwide environmental disclosure is announced as set for future implementation (Xi 2017: 46; CPC and State Council 2015; Geall 2015). Further, a combination of social and informational nudges becomes visible. Green, circular, and low-carbon developments can, according to the narrative promoted by the CCP, be achieved through manmade restoration, education, healthy lifestyles, public awareness, and building a resource-conserving and environmentally friendly society (CPC and State Council 2015: 1–3). The report of the 17th Party Congress already announced the implementing of policies dealing with the reshaping of consumption patterns (Huan 2016: 53), ones helpful in nudging the Chinese middle class toward sustainability. Besides this, shifting to a water-saving society is called for. Together with the promotion of increased research and new technologies to save energy, the CPC and the State Council aim to steer the public toward energy conservation and emission reduction (CPC and State Council 2015: 6–8). Also, pollution prevention and control should ensure human health and safety in the long run, as well as harmony between man and nature. Further, a system to enable public interest litigation is announced as being established (ibid.: 11, 19). The promotion of ecological 182 civilization by the government, for example through speeches, can be categorized as an informational nudge in itself. Li (2012) summons citizens to “live and consume in a moderate rather than excessive manner”. All these repeated connotations aim to inform individuals on environmental issues while simultaneously nudging them toward environmentally friendly behavior by targeting their values, norms, attitudes, emotions, and even their identities. Through informational nudges and the simplification of language, repeated statements, and increases in ease and convenience, the governmental plans and reforms—as well as environmental information—are made understandable and accessible for citizens. Furthermore, they reduce barriers and decrease complexity. Besides this, Chinese policymakers frame the concept of ecological civilization in positive terms by visualizing an improved quality of life, prosperity, and livability for citizens, and use the Chinese cultural identity and the prospect of personal prosperity to contribute to the heuristic of anchoring (CPC and State Council 2015: 1, 3). Thereby, emotions and affects—as well as attitudes—are targeted in order to anchor the positive connotations of ecological civilization. With the availability of digital communication services, broadband, and cell phone subscriptions growing in China (ITU 2017), the government is able to use stateowned media and social media channels to frame and prime information with which to motivate its citizens to achieve this ecological civilization—for example via WeChat (Wang 2017). These informational nudges, such as energy and low-carbon campaigns (CPC and State Council 2015: 8), educate citizens about their environmental impact through their consumption patterns and behaviors, which can lead to a change in individuals’ unsustainable decisions and lifestyles (Simões 2016: 3). The implementation of these informational and simplification nudges targeting the heuristics of anchoring, availability, loss aversion, status quo maintenance, and overconfidence are—along with the framing of information itself—already in place (Lee and Park 2011). The website of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE 2018) provides real-time access to information on environmental quality in different national regions and cities, for example regarding air pollution. In addition to informational campaigns and environmental disclosure by the state media and the government, slogans connected with ecological civilization are already seen on the streets in big and bold letters—targeting the human heuristic of availability, so as to trigger individuals’ attention (Geall 2015). Such instruments also include the labeling of energy efficiency and the certification of organic, low-carbon, and recyclable products (CPC and State Council 2015: 15), which can 183 be categorized as green nudges. Thereby, these green nudges avoid engaging the automatic system of thinking and consumers are nudged to think more carefully about their purchasing decisions (Schubert 2017: 331–333). Moreover, the (beginning) implementation of the announced environmental interest litigation can already be seen in the opportunity for citizens to comment on draft laws, such as the one on “environment” taxes (Geall 2015), which outlines new ways how the individual could participate in the achievement of an ecological civilization. Thereby, subject and object can switch around: citizens can become the deliverer of cues and politicians can become the new recipients. Hereby citizens can improve policymakers’ decisions, and understand their subsequent ones more comprehensively too (Cottam et al. 2004: 3; John 2016: 115). Alongside the use of informational nudges, simplification, and framing, the Chinese government also addresses social norms. To shift society toward being an environmentally friendly one (Constitution of the CPC 2017: 7), a realignment of norms and values—and therefore behavioral change—is required. The eighth section of the Central Document focuses on “accelerating the cultivation of good social morals” (CPC and State Council 2015: 18) so as to promote ecological civilization, and aims for instilling core socialist values. Also, Xi’s (2017: 46) intention is to involve everyone in improving the environment. The CPC announced the active nurturing of an ecological culture through guiding and mobilizing the whole society, via the national education system as well as the instruction of officials. Further, the CPC will “expose negative examples” and “resist and oppose all forms of extravagance” (CPC and State Council 2015: 18–19) regarding consumption and polluting behavior. These policy formulations can be categorized as social nudges, since they aim to influence norms, identities, values, and attitudes. Formulations such as “guide consumers,” “families must carry out,” or “mobilize the public” (ibid.: 18) reveal paternalistic approaches. The use of such words can be understood as a discursive tool of the CPC to nudge Chinese citizens toward sustainable development, since attitudes are subject to change through external influences—such as social norms, peer pressure, or new information, for example via new laws (Cottam et al. 2004: 37). The “Chinese Dream,”77 together with a harmonious society and an ecological civilization, shapes attitudes among Chinese 77 The Chinese Dream was adopted as a slogan by Xi Jinping in 2013, and aims at “national rejuvenation” (Xi 2017: 64), including prosperity for all, socialism, and with it only being achieved by collective effort (Wang 2014). 184 citizens by altering pro-environment social norms. People already follow and identify with the articulated vision of a positive and futureoriented society, as Li (2012) elaborated in his aforementioned speech. Social nudges can lead to new pro-environmental norms and values through situational burdens, such as peer pressure and changes in a group’s behavior and identity—targeting the heuristics of adjustment, status quo bias, and anchoring (Cialdini 2007; Cottam et al. 2004: 37, 57). Furthermore the execution of trading energy-use, carbon-emission, water, and pollution rights is planned and will be permitted nationwide (CPC and State Council 2015: 15; Khan/Chang 2018: 6). These trading schemes can be categorized as a combination of voluntary incentives and treasures, since those individuals who do not consume much can trade their rights herewith. Other consumers have the incentive to reduce their pollution outputs meanwhile, because they can avoid paying the tax by not generating pollution (Thaler/Sunstein 2009: 189). Another voluntary incentive—in combination with traditional treasure governance intervention instruments—can be found in the fifth section of the Central Document, where the improvement of environmental quality is targeted. Therein the government announces its granting of subsidies and financial incentives to those engaged in ecological protection. Such economic stimuli can also achieve environmentally friendly behavior. By adjusting the prices of goods and services depending on their environmental impact, eco-friendly decisions can be manifested. The CPC emphasizes financial and other incentives, such as ones for low-carbon products like electric vehicles. These are already partly implemented; for example, the government has waived the 10 percent purchase tax for such vehicles (CCICED 2016: 16; CPC and State Council 2015: 10, 15). The Environmental Protection Law: A Milestone in Chinese Environmental Policy after Twenty-Five Years of Stagnation Similarly, different types of nudge have been found in the EPL too. The law of 1979, revised in 1989 and again in 2014 by the National People’s Congress, aims to protect and improve the environment, prevent and control pollution, promote ecological civilization, and to safeguard public health (EPL 2014). Special focus is drawn to the individual level, especially to local officials—since they are key to improving and implementing environmental protection schemes (Yang 2014: 535). The law 185 is a contribution to the achievement of an ecological civilization, since environmental protection is a core strategy by which to construct such an entity (Huan 2016: 54). In addition the law is also intended to contribute to the winning of Beijing’s “war on pollution,” which aims to reduce air pollution and improve air quality (Ker/Logan 2014). As policy analysis regarding the formulation and implementation of the EPL shows, one of the seminal revisions has been the announcement of environmental disclosure policies—this can be categorized as an informational nudge. Chapter five of the law explicitly targets individuals by announcing “the right to obtain environmental information, participate [in], and supervise the activities of environmental protection” (EPL 2014: 11). Thereby, citizens, legal persons, and organizations will receive environmental information—such as on national environmental quality—as disclosed by the government. Public participation and the right of citizens to actively participate in environmental protection demonstrates the government’s recognition that it needs public involvement to support its environmental protection efforts. In addition, a legal basis has been established to allow for citizens’ public interest litigation (Ker/Logan 2014). Consequently, the dissemination of knowledge about environmental protection as well as related laws and regulations is announced as to be carried out by educational departments, the news media, grassroots organizations, and other social entities (EPL 2014: 2). The provision of this knowledge can be categorized as an informational nudge and simplification, since it informs citizens about their rights while simultaneously allowing them to understand complex laws and regulations. Therefore, the heuristics specifically of availability and anchoring are targeted. In addition, the possibility of public interest litigation illustrates the exchange of subject and object as well as top-down and bottom-up approaches, whereby politicians themselves can become the new recipients hereof. Moreover, monitoring of environmental information can be categorized as an informational nudge since it aims to inform individuals on environmental quality. Article 17 of the EPL declares the establishment and improvement of the environmental monitoring system. Hereby standards are formulated, organized within a network, managed in monitoring posts, and shared within an information system (ibid.: 4). The implementation of a national monitoring system is already in progress. The budget of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) was in 2015 mainly spent on constructing the national environmental monitoring web (Zheng/Kahn 2017: 87–88). These informational nudges, achieved through environmental disclosure and monitoring, make 186 citizens aware of climatic conditions in China (as well as of effects on humans) and may change attitudes, identities, and values toward proenvironmental behavior in the long run. Besides informational nudges and simplification, the EPL uses social nudges in its formulations too. Attention is drawn to an individual’s environmental and polluting behavior. Local officials, operators of enterprises, public institutions, as well as citizens are all required to protect the environment. Especially, “[c]itizens shall enhance environmental protection awareness, adopt low-carbon and energy-saving lifestyles, and conscientiously fulfill the obligation of environmental protection” (EPL 2014: 2). Further, the government “encourages and guides citizens, legal persons, and other organizations to procure environmentally friendly products and recycled products” (ibid.: 8). In addition, citizens are called on to abide by the separation of waste and the implementation of environmental protection measures. The incorporation of environmental protection awareness in schools’ and educational departments’ curricula can be categorized as a social nudge, since norms and values are the targets of change here. Environmental protection awareness is announced as intended to be cultivated among students (ibid.: 2), which clearly entails a shift in behavior, personality, and attitude. Moreover, individuals are entitled to report and complain about ecological damage or pollution by any individual to the authorities. If local officials fail to fulfill their responsibilities, citizens can report it to a higher level of government (ibid.: 12). The targeted social norms can then lead to peer pressure and social comparisons aiming to induce a shift toward environmental protection; for example, if some citizens report on environmental pollution then other respective group members will follow suit and thereby create new pro-environment norms. Decisions can be affected by a group’s behavior (Cialdini 2007), which can in turn be transformed into norms (Feldman 1984). Group members can impose sanctions for any violations of environmental protection and, consequently, individuals may change their ways so as to meet the group’s standards (Cottam et al. 2004: 65– 70). Furthermore, voluntary incentives are found in the EPL (2014: 3). Here, the government claims to “give awards to units and individuals that have made outstanding achievements in protecting and improving the environment” (ibid.: 3). Further economic rewards are granted if individuals, enterprises, or public institutions achieve a reduction in pollution beyond statutory discharge standards (ibid.: 5). These rewards can nudge individuals towards pro-environment behavior, since they have an interest in avoiding costs and receiving gains (Huddy/Sears/Levy 187 2013: 5). A combination of voluntary incentives, traditional authority, and treasures as governance intervention can be found in Article 59 of the law. Here, polluters who refuse to pay a fine for the illegal discharge thereof face an additional daily financial penalty (EPL 2014: 13). This article targets the heuristic of loss aversion, since individuals are threatened by a higher punitive sentence. Since individuals are more anxious about losing something, the polluters are more likely to pay the fine than to risk the daily financial penalty (Tversky/Quattrone 1988: 719). Furthermore the article can also be categorized as framing , since it targets the automatic system and the heuristic of loss aversion by stating its goals in terms of economic losses instead of gains (Grüne- Yanoff/Hertwig 2016: 156). Additionally, a combination of social nudges, voluntary incentives, and authority was found in the law. The establishment of an accountability and performance evaluation system regarding environmental protection targets the individual behavior of local officials. The outcomes from local officials’ actions are made public (EPL 2014: 6). Previously, promotions for local officials had only been linked to their success in furthering economic growth (Marquis/Zhang/Zhou 2011: 42). However, since the announcement of the envisaged ecological civilization, meeting pollution targets has also been included in the local official’s performance review—being further reinforced by the EPL (Khan/Chang 2018: 9). Hereby such officials are assessed on their environmental performance, which shifts the incentives that they have toward environmental protection (Ker/Logan 2014). Officials will be held accountable if they do not pay sufficient attention to this when in office (Zhang 2015). These performance targets are found to be more effective than laws in motivating local officials to implement environmental protection measures. If these incentives fail and local officials violate environmental protection laws, sanctions are imposed—such as administrative punishments by environmental protection departments (Ker/Logan 2014). Especially, local officials with environmental protection responsibilities “shall be given a demerit, a serious demerit, […] be demoted, […] or be dismissed, and the primary persons in charge of the relevant departments shall take the blame and resign from office” (EPL 2014: 15) when they violate the requirements of Article 68. These include the failure to investigate acts of discharging pollutants, the concealment of environment-related illegalities, and the nondisclosure of environmental information (ibid.). This lifelong accountability system will also have an effect on an official’s chances of promotion, since environmental black marks will stay on her or his work record (Geall 2015). Also, officials 188 who are already retired are still held accountable for environmental pollution or damage that occurred on their watch. In 2015, indeed, thousands of people suspected of environmental crimes were arrested by the Chinese police (Blanchard 2015). The same applies to enterprises and public institutions too, since they are to be held responsible for violations of environmental laws and regulations (EPL 2014: 6, 9, 12). The environmental performance assessment especially targets the heuristics of loss aversion and status quo maintenance. Since local officials are more afraid to lose their position and status they will probably aim to achieve the pollution targets (Grüne-Yanoff/Hertwig 2016: 156). Alongside this combination of incentives (promotions) with authority (sanctions) (Blum/Schubert 2018: 188), social nudges are found as well. Since local officials are no longer only promoted due to economic achievements, but due also now to performance in environmental protection and accomplishments regarding pollution targets, social comparison mechanisms emerge between local officials. As mentioned earlier, such peer and social comparison pressure can transform social norms (Feldman 1984) and ultimately help achieve behavioral change (Cottam et al. 2004: 65–70). Nudging with Chinese Characteristics Although the terms nudging, Nudge Theory, or behavioral insights were not found in Chinese policy papers, reports, or speeches given by governmental representatives, the analysis of China’s environmental policies revealed the employment of these concepts all the same. As shown, China uses these concepts to formulate and implement its environmental policies. This fact was discovered in the two research units related to these policies, namely ecological civilization and the EPL. Looking at classification in terms of different types of nudge, their applied heuristics, influences on behavior, and implementation instruments, China draws on the following to formulate and implement its environmental policies. However, the Chinese government still uses mainly traditional governance interventions such as treasure and authority—or a combination of these traditional tools and nudges—to formulate and implement its environmental policies. This can be declared “nudging with Chinese characteristics.” 189 T yp e o f N ud ge H eu ris tic (s ) In flu en ce s o n H um an Be ha vi or Im pl em en ta tio n To ol (s) Ex am pl es So cia l n ud ge St at us q uo ; ad ju stm en t; an ch or in g So ci al n or m s; so ci al id en tit y; pe er p re ss ur e/ g ro up be ha vi or ; a tti tu de s; va lu es ; p er so na lit y In fo rm at io n; pr im in g; so ci al co m pa ris on Ex po su re o f n eg at iv e e xa m pl es re ga rd in g po llu tio n an d co ns um pt io n be ha vi or ; ac co un ta bi lit y an d pe rfo rm an ce ev al ua tio n sy ste m * Si m pl ifi ca tio n/ in cr e as es in ea se a nd co nv en ie nc e Lo ss av er sio n; sta tu s q uo ; av ai la bi lit y A tti tu de s; V al ue s Re du ci ng b ar rie rs ; sim pl ify in g la w s a nd re gu la tio ns ; d ec re as in g co m pl ex ity ; str uc tu re co m pl ex ch oi ce s Si m pl ify in g pr od uc t i nf or m at io n (e co -la be ls) *; ea sy la ng ua ge an d re pe tit io ns in th e c on sti tu tio n, EP L an d th e C en tra l D oc um en t; po ss ib ili ty o f p ub lic in te re st lit ig at io n* V ol un ta ry in ce nt iv e Lo ss av er sio n; sta tu s q uo m ai nt en an ce A tti tu de s (F in an ci al ) i nc en tiv e In ce nt iv es to p ur ch as e e le ct ric v eh ic le s; un de r p en al ty o f d ai ly fi ne s* In fo rm at io na l nu dg e A nc ho rin g; ov er co nf id en ce ; av ai la bi lit y A tti tu de s; id en tit y D isc lo su re p ol ic y; in fo rm in g pe op le ab ou t t he na tu re an d co ns eq ue nc es o f th ei r o w n ch oi ce s In fo rm in g th e p ub lic o n ec ol og ic al ci vi liz at io n an d its re la te d po lic ie s, la w s, an d re gu la tio ns ; en vi ro nm en ta l m on ito rin g; in fo rm at io n on en vi ro nm en ta l q ua lit y Fr am in g Lo ss av er sio n; A nc ho rin g; A va ila bi lit y A tti tu de s; em ot io ns an d af fe ct s Th e w ay in w hi ch in fo rm at io n is pr es en te d/ fra m ed Te lli ng p eo pl e h ow m uc h m on ey th ey w ou ld lo se by a da ily fi ne if th ey d o no t p ay th ei r p re vi ou s fe e* ; Fr am in g th e c on str uc tio n of ec ol og ic al ci vi liz at io n in te rm s o f p ro sp er ity an d a b et te r q ua lit y of li fe So ur ce : A ut ho rs o w n el ab or at io n, b as ed o n th e f in di ng s o f B en ar tz i a nd T ha le r ( 20 04 ; s ee al so , C CI CE D 2 01 6; C on sti tu tio ns o f t he C PC 2 01 7; Co sta an d K ah n 20 10 ; C ot ta m et al . 2 00 4; C PC an d St at e C ou nc il 20 15 ; E PL 2 01 4; G ol ds te in /C ia ld in i/G ris ke vi ci us 2 00 8; Jo hn so n/ G ol ds te in 20 03 ; K ha n/ Ch an g 20 18 ; K os te rs /v an d er H ei jd en 2 01 5; L i 2 01 2; S ch ub er t 2 01 7; S un ste in 2 01 4; T ha le r/S un ste in 2 00 9; X i, 20 17 ; Z ha ng 20 15 ; Z ha ng 2 01 8; Z he ng /K ha n 20 17 ). N ot e: * d en ot es a co m bi na tio n of d iff er en t n ud ge s o r a co m bi na tio n of n ud ge s w ith tr ad iti on al go ve rn an ce in te rv en tio n in str um en ts, su ch as au th or ity o r t re as ur e. Ta bl e V III .1 : C la ss ifi ca tio n of N ud ge s U se d in C hi na ’s E nv iro nm en ta l P ol ic ie s 190 Conclusion China draws on behavioral insights and Nudge Theory to implement its respective environmental policies. The government mainly uses social and informational nudges, voluntary incentives, framing and simplification, as well as combinations of traditional governance intervention tools to formulate and implement its various policies in this field. The outputs of the applied behavioral insights and nudge-based environmental policies are predominantly voluntary incentives and the provision of information aiming to change the behavior of individuals. So far, incentives on low-carbon products—for example electric vehicles, emission-trading schemes, and grant awards to individuals for outstanding achievements in environmental protection, as well as informational nudges—have contributed to increased green awareness, public participation, and greater public trust. Moreover, it has been found that China intends to meet the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda specifically by building an ecological civilization. Special focus herein is drawn to individual behavior, since everyone can contribute to implementing and realizing the Agenda’s goals. Therefore, the government is trying to reduce manmade pollution, shift unsustainable consumption patterns, and mobilize its citizens. Nevertheless, the Chinese leadership still predominately calls on traditional governance intervention tools (namely authority) such as command-and-control regulations. If behavior does not conform to the stipulated regulations, then sanctions will be imposed—a demonstration of the government’s use of nudging with Chinese characteristics. However, China’s environmental governance system is still under transformation given its current move away from top-down and command-and-control regulations. A decentralization of environmental policymaking has been identified, since local officials now assume increasing environmental responsibilities. Moreover, market-based approaches as well as the inclusion of citizens and NGOs in environmental policies are increasing. Environmental protection is now considered in such market-based approaches, via subsidies, incentives, taxes, and fees. Additionally, civil society inclusion and participation has increased through environmental information, the possibility existing to report on environmental protection or violations, and public interest litigation. By examining China’s environmental policies, evidence for the systematic application of Nudge Theory by the Chinese government was not discovered. Terms related to Nudge Theory or behavioral insights were not discovered in official documents either. This leads to the conclusion that governmental representatives might not even be aware that 191 they are using Nudge Theory when formulating and implementing these soft, nonintrusive, and nonregulatory governance intervention instruments. Therefore, it remains unclear whether—to address, in conclusion, the title question opening this essay—the Chinese government has indeed adapted the nudging approach from the Global North to help the country achieve a sustainable future. Although China still faces challenges to meet the 2030 Agenda, achieve sustainability, and realize a greener future, the country has nevertheless made remarkable progress in its recent environmental policies. The transformation thereof, alongside the aspiration to construct an ecological civilization, reveals China’s commitment and genuine intention to protect the environment while pursuing economic and social progress. The use of behavioral insights and Nudge Theory is compatible with the aimed for socialist modernization with Chinese characteristics. Bridging traditional cultural values with contemporary Behavioral Science practices, could lead to China assuming a pioneering role on the environment globally. In any case it has already gained an international energy and climate leadership role with the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement. Consequently, the Chinese government can contribute the knowledge and experience gained from its environmental policies, using therein behavioral insights and Nudge Theory, to other countries of the Global South too. 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The Chinese government has recently reconfirmed its “going global” strategy. Beijing is currently constructing a global “New Silk Road,” and has begun to engage in various transcontinental infrastructure projects. From the long-term perspective, the corridors of this New Silk Road might facilitate the exporting of Chinese governance paradigms and hence lead to the formation of institutions that pose a severe challenge to the existing liberal order. The essays in this volume thus take a closer look at recent governance innovations and domestic policy experimentations in China, and also discuss international and regional responses to China’s active positioning as a global power.

The book series East Asian Politics: Regional and Global Dynamics publishes cutting-edge research on dynamic changes in and recent development trends of East Asian politics. The series follows a multilevel framework of analysis: It examines the impact of global power shifts and the transformation of the international system on (domestic) politics in East Asia.