Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Coal is both the major fuel for China's economic development and the major source of its severe air pollution. China's reliance on coal for nearly three-quarters of its primary energy has contributed to local air pollution, regional acid rain and global climate change. At the same time, the country's coal consumption has electrified its growing cities and helped Chinese steel and chemical industries to become international powerhouses.

This contribution considers how the intertwined issues of environmental reform and economic reform have affected efforts to reduce coal-related air pollution in China. Our analysis focuses on government efforts to promote the diffusion of cleaner coal technologies (CCTs) among industrial state-owned enterprises (SOEs). We utilize a framework of 'fragmented authoritarianism' (Lieberthal and Oksenberg, 1988) for our investigation of CCT-related policies, examining the changing relationships among central and local government actors and enterprises during the past decade of economic reforms. We also examine how economic reforms have influenced environmental policy development at the centre, environmental policy implementation at the local level, and the response of enterprises to these changing policies. Fragmented authoritarianism helps explain why, despite government efforts to promote technologies that reduce coal-related air pollution in China, the diffusion of CCT has been slow.