We are pleased to announce that six of our faculty in the Department of Public Policy have received GRF grants and congratulate them on their success! Congratulations to Professor Gong, Dr. Harris, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Kim, Dr. Li, and Dr. Yau!
For more information on their projects, see the descriptions below:
Professor GONG Ting (with Prof. John Hugh Bacon-Shone and Prof. Ian Scott), “Public Perceptions of Corruption in Hong Kong"
Anti-corruption agencies and scholars alike agree that successful corruption prevention strategies are greatly facilitated by securing active public support. Yet the implementation of an anti-corruption community relations strategy is invariably constrained by the need to devote limited financial resources to the more immediate tasks of investigating, prosecuting and preventing corrupt activities. In many countries, as a consequence, the community relations strategy consists of little more than top-down sermons on the evils of corruption. Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is an exception. Over nearly forty years of community interaction through its decentralized local offices, it has successfully won public support for zero tolerance of corruption, defined as bribery. Yet, for two reasons, this strategy may now need refinement. First, perceptions of what constitutes corruption are changing rapidly from traditional notions of bribery to more sophisticated conflicts of interest, deferred advantages, money-laundering, other forms of cross-border corruption, and electoral fraud. Second, while the ICAC strongly emphasizes and communicates a generic message of zero tolerance of corruption to the public, its strategy is not specifically tailored to combat socially-embedded attitudes which might promote corruption in some groups but not in others. The ICAC’s original in-house research between 1977 and 1986 and our more recent research, which includes a small pilot survey of two districts, suggest that there are significantly different attitudes towards corruption, broadly defined, among various socio-economic groups in Hong Kong. The pilot survey gives us confidence that we can measure these differences among socio-economic groups on three cross-checking dimensions. We will ask our respondents how they perceive and define corruption; their willingness to tolerate corruption judged by their reactions to scenarios in which behavior might be suspected to be corrupt; and their willingness to report corruption. Our present proposal is to extend the pilot survey to 1,000 respondents. From the results, we will obtain a more comprehensive picture of corruption perceptions which will enable us to accomplish three important research objectives: to provide a composite disaggregated picture of the experience and perceptions of corruption of different socio-economic groups across Hong Kong; to aid in the formulation of more targeted and evidence-based policy by providing information on changing public perceptions of corruption; and to help in the development of more sophisticated methodologies for assessing perceptions of corruption.
Dr. Eirik Lang Harris, “Han Fei’s Political Philosophy”
Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in Confucian political philosophy and numerous attempts to analyze ways in which it may contribute to a political philosophy for East Asia, how it may need to be modified to suit the contemporary context, and how it can contribute to a dialogue with Western political theories. However, Confucianism is only one school of thought from China’s long philosophical history, and there are numerous other political theories from China’s past that have the potential to make important contributions to contemporary debates. Furthermore, while it is acknowledged that Confucianism faces important challenges that must be overcome in order to profitably come into dialogue with Western political philosophy, there has been little recognition of the fact that it has long been challenged from within its own historical tradition, perhaps nowhere more strongly than by Han Fei. Furthermore, far from merely being a critic of Confucianism, Han Fei advances his own unique positive vision of political organization. However, his system has rarely been engaged with in an attempt to learn from it. As such, a deeper understanding of Han Fei’s political philosophy can lead to challenges to both Western political theories and Confucian political thought. By reconstructing Han Fei’s philosophy, I demonstrate that it has much to offer those interested in political theory, in Asia as well as in the world at large. He offers us a strong defense of the value of engaging in the history of political philosophy, a claim that is often questioned today. Furthermore, while he does not directly tackle many of the issues that are the central concerns of contemporary political philosophers, often we can, by reconstructing his philosophy and analyzing what his principles commit him to, determine how he would address numerous issues of contemporary interest. This project does not advocate a return to Han Fei’s Legalist political theory in its entirety. There are many areas in which Han Fei gets it wrong, and he seems to be blind to certain effective and appealing alternatives. However, by constructively engaging first with Han Fei himself and subsequently with important issues in contemporary political philosophy, this work will demonstrate not only that two vastly different political traditions can profitably be brought into dialogue but that regardless of our final analysis of the viability of Han Fei’s political philosophy, his arguments provide challenges that must be taken seriously by contemporary political philosophers.
Dr. Thomas Johnson (with Dr. Anna Lora-Wainwright and LU Jixia), "Coalitions of the ‘Weak': Fighting Pollution at China’s Rural-Urban Interface”
This project examines scale shifts and the formation of rural-urban environmental coalitions in China through a study of resistance against waste incineration. Many parts of rural China suffer from severe pollution (Lora-Wainwright 2013b), and the siting of waste incinerators in the countryside threatens to add to this burden (Balkan 2012). Since 2006 an anti-incinerator coalition—comprising sceptical experts, environmental NGO activists, academics, lawyers, and journalists—has formed in Beijing. NGO documents and our own pilot research reveal linkages between this urban coalition and rural communities opposed to incinerators. However, this remains unexplored by the literature. Activist coalitions promote diffusion of information and strategy between previously unconnected sites (Givan et al 2010). Through “frame bridging” and “brokerage,” they can have the important effect of “scaling-up” environmental campaigns from localised affairs to broader social movements (Rootes 2009; McAdam & Boudet 2012). This occurred in the United States, where networked anti-incinerator activism promoted more environmentally sustainable ways of treating waste and rejuvenated a green movement heavily oriented towards institutionalised lobbying (Szasz, 1994; Gottlieb 2002). Yet the processes through which localised environmental campaigns develop coalitions and form larger movements remain poorly understood (McAdam & Boudet 2012: 134). Our research would examine how Chinese rural dwellers—often assumed to be “isolated” from intermediary support from outside activists (Van Rooij 2010)—form coalitions with networked urban environmentalists, and how this affects campaign processes and outcomes. It addresses several questions: how do rural-urban anti-incinerator coalitions form, and how are tensions overcome? How do coalitions affect campaign tactics and outcomes, and participants’ perceptions of the issue? Why do Chinese urban environmental activists—previously assumed to shun linkages with pollution victims in favour of an approach “embedded in the state” (Ho 2007)—cooperate with rural anti-incinerator campaigners? What do these cases reveal about the potential, and obstacles, for movement expansion in an authoritarian state? Our project would adopt a top-down and bottom-up approach in studying rural-urban anti-incinerator coalitions in China. It would examine anti-incinerator activism in three villages, in Hebei, Jiangsu, and Sichuan provinces. Following Mertha (2008), sites are selected based on outcomes, with one “success,” one “failure,” and one “mixed outcome.” We would conduct in-depth qualitative research in these three locations to better understand how rural dwellers fight pollution, and how they form linkages with wider networks. We would also interview participants in the Beijing-based anti-incinerator coalition to examine urban-rural networks from a top-down perspective.
Dr. Sungmoon Kim, “Democratic Perfectionism: Liberal and Confucian Perspectives”
Over the past two decades, political theorists and philosophers in East Asia and beyond have been struggling with a non-liberal mode of political regime and practice related to East Asia’s Confucian philosophical and societal context. As a result, Confucian political theory has emerged as an important sub-field in political theory. For instance, although Western political scientists such as Samuel Huntington once called ‘Confucian democracy’ a contradiction in terms, no informed scholar nowadays would subscribe to such a presumption not least because of the successful democratic transitions of East Asian, and historically Confucian, countries such as South Korea and Taiwan but also because of the collective endeavours of scholars to advance a normatively compelling and sociopolitically practicable mode of democracy in East Asia distinct from Western-style democracies – namely, Confucian democracy. Given the impressive diversity of Confucian political theories in terms of style, political orientation, interpretive angle and methodology, it is difficult to single out the most distinctive feature(s) that these theories have in common as Confucian political theory per se. Nevertheless, it appears that most Confucian political theories hold some shared perfectionist assumptions in common, namely: (1) Confucian ethics is a kind of perfectionist ethics that assumes the existence of the objectively good life and thus aims at the moral perfection of the people; (2) given the inseparability of Confucian ethics and politics, the supreme goal of Confucian politics lies in promoting the objectively good life and securing the socioeconomic conditions that enable such a life; and therefore (3) the state in a Confucian polity is morally authorised to promote a particular (Confucian) conception of the good life. The underlying argument is that democracy is either only instrumentally valuable or unimportant provided that the perfectionist ends are promoted by the state. In this book project, I will attempt to theorise a form of Confucian perfectionism that is fully compatible with the intrinsic value of democracy. To do so, I will first construct a robust normative concept and political theory of democratic perfectionism by critically engaging with liberal perfectionist theory while testing its practical plausibility in the areas of constitutionalism, distributive justice and political leadership. Then, from the perspective of democratic perfectionism thus constructed, I will explore a normatively attractive theory of Confucian perfectionism that is robustly democratic and culturally relevant in East Asia and equally test its plausibility in a contemporary Confucian cultural and societal context.
Dr. LI Wanxin, "Environmental information transparency in China: Analysing individual, organisational and regional disparities in supply and demand”
Environmental information transparency has been gradually institutionalised globally since the 1992 Rio Declaration. Such transparency is a desirable public good that promotes effective environmental governance, helps protect individuals from harm, catalyses collaboration for the enforcement of environmental standards, and facilitates social learning. However, the achievement of information transparency depends on establishing a legal basis, a social context, and the will and capacity to collect, process, publicise and use environmental information. For success, all of these factors must be activated at the individual, organisational, and regional levels. In 2007, the Chinese central government promulgated the Measures of Environmental Information Disclosure (Trial), but local implementation has been uneven and far from optimal. The causes of this uneven performance have been little explored to date. Both facing growing environmental hazards and having the ambition to develop a green economy, China has an urgent need for a systematic examination of the factors affecting environmental information transparency.
This project fills a void in environmental governance research by examining the factors that influence the supply and demand for environmental information, as experienced by individual officials, environmental protection bureaus (EPBs), regional development agencies, NGOs and members of the public. At an individual level, an environmental official’s decision to disclose information depends on personal attitudes, beliefs, and perceived costs or benefits (Ajzen, 1991). At an organisational level, the availability of human and financial resources and inter-office collaboration can explain why different environmental agencies have different capacities for implementing environmental information transparency. At a regional level, socio-economic and environmental conditions, political leadership and the civic culture all influence the strategic orientation of environmental information transparency programmes. The proposed research project will investigate whether and how individual dispositions, features of EPBs, and socio-economic and political contexts intertwine with each other affecting the achievement of environmental information transparency across personal, organisational, and regional levels of activity.
A stratified random sample of 12 cities is selected for analysis, from the 113 key Chinese cities identified by the government for environmental protection. These cities have experienced uneven implementation of the information transparency regulations. Subjects of the study include individual government officials, environmental agencies, and local residents. Focus groups, individual interviews, and surveys will be adopted for primary data collection. The field research will be supplemented with background information from news reports, government documents, reports from environmental NGOs and other sources.
The findings of this project will inform researchers, practitioners and policy-makers concerning the driving forces, institutional designs, and social learning that can enable information transparency and improve environmental outcomes for China. The project will contribute to the literature on environmental governance, state-society relations, and the quality of government.
Dr. Simon Yau (with Dr. Daniel Ho), "Tripartite Efficacy Beliefs, Institutional Settings and Collectivism in Multi-owned Housing Governance in Hong Kong and Macau"
The ownership arrangement of multi-owned housing (MOH) necessitates collective actions of homeowners for proper governance of this type of housing (e.g. for housing maintenance and rights protection). Yet, given the collective-good nature of the outcomes of MOH governance, the classic collective-action dilemma suggests that rationality drives homeowners to free-ride on others’ efforts, and that no collective action will take place eventually. However, not all MOH developments are unmanaged actually. Some homeowners do actively participate in MOH governance, and it is worthwhile to examine why some participate whereas others do not. Such inquiry helps to illuminate ways to facilitate collective actions in MOH governance, which is essential for the sustainable management of housing stock and nurturing of civil society. While other scholars and the investigators have identified a list of determinants of homeowner participation, little work has been done on the effects of perceived efficacies of governance proxies (e.g. property management companies and owners’ associations) and institutional settings on collective actions in MOH governance. To fill these gaps, this study aims to explore the impacts of proxy efficacy beliefs and institutional settings on homeowner participation in Hong Kong and Macau using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Given their similar social and cultural contexts but different institutional settings, these two cities are chosen for a meaningful comparison of the findings. To evaluate the effects of proxy efficacy beliefs, an analytical model built upon the widely-used collective interest model and supplemented by other profound social theories like normative conformity and social identity theories is developed. Quantities analyses are conducted the data obtained from structured household surveys. On the qualitative side, in-depth case studies through contextual analyses and interviews with various stakeholders involved in MOH governance are conducted. The information collected is analysed with the institutional analysis and development framework. The findings of the qualitative study depict how the effects of efficacy beliefs, including perceived self, group and proxy efficacies, on participation behaviour are moderated by institutional design. This research will provide valuable insights into homeowner participation in MOH governance in Hong Kong and Macau. The findings will assist policy-makers to make more informed decisions on the governance of MOH. In addition, this study will propose recommendations for improvements in the structure of contemporary housing governance. It will also serve as a cornerstone for wider comparative research with other Asian cities where MOH is predominant such as Shanghai, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.