What Contributes to the Formation of Stable Collaborative Water Governance? A Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Chinese Cases

  • Ge Xin Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, School of Public Economics and Administration
Keywords: collaborative governance, water governance, issue salience, path dependence, qualitative comparative analysis, fsQCA


Collaborative governance is a crucial approach to addressing cross-jurisdictional environmental problems. With the ample water resources across China, lack of coordination for water governance however has become a severe barrier to regional development. Taking the largest freshwater lake in east China – Lake Tai as an example and drawing upon intergovernmental collective action theory, issue salience theory, and resource dependence theory, this research explores how the combination of contextual factors and intra-alliance factors contribute to the formation of stable collaborative water governance. Specifically, we applied a fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis to examine the 32 collaborative water governance cases in Lake Tai basin from the year of 2010 to 2019, and found that the presence of governmental intervention is a necessary condition for shaping collaborative water governance in China, and two configurational pathways represent the issue-oriented model and path-dependence model, which provides possible insights for promoting inter-governmental collaborative governance in the future.


Ansell, C. & Gash, A. (2008) Collaborative governance in theory and practice, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18(4), pp. 543–71.
Ahlers, A.L. & Schubert, G. (2014) Effective policy implementation in China’s local state, Modern China, 41(4), pp. 372–405.
Aung, T. M. & Lim, S. (2021. Evolution of collaborative governance in the 2015, 2016, and 2018 Myanmar flood disaster responses: A longitudinal approach to a network analysis, International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 12(2), pp. 267-280.
Bell, E., & Scott, T. A. (2020) Common institutional design, divergent results: A comparative case study of collaborative governance platforms for regional water planning, Environmental Science & Policy, 111, pp. 63-73.
Bianchi, C., Nasi, G., & Rivenbark, W. C. (2021) Implementing collaborative governance: models, experiences, and challenges, Public Management Review, 23(11), pp. 1581-1589.
Bitterman, P. & Koliba, C. J. (2020) Modeling alternative collaborative governance network designs: An agent-based model of water governance in the Lake Champlain Basin, Vermont, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 30(4), pp. 636-655.
Brown 1, T. L., Gong, T. & Jing, Y. (2012) Collaborative governance in mainland China and Hong Kong: Introductory essay, International Public Management Journal, 15(4), pp. 393-404.
Bryson, J. M., Crosby, B. C., & Stone, M. M. (2006) The design and implementation of Cross‐Sector collaborations: Propositions from the literature, Public administration review, 66(1), pp. 44-55.
Cigler, B. A. (1999) Pre-conditions for the Emergency of Multicommunity Collaborative Organizations, Policy studies review, 16(1), pp. 87–102.
Coleman, J. S. (1988) Social capital in the creation of human capital, American journal of sociology, 94, pp. S95-S120.
Emerson, K., Nabatchi, T. & Balogh, S. (2012) An integrative framework for collaborative governance, Journal of public administration research and theory, 22(1), pp. 1-29.
Emerson, K. & Nabatchi, T. (2015) Collaborative governance regimes (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press).
Feiock, R. C. (2013) The institutional collective action framework, Policy Studies Journal, 41(3), pp. 397-425.
Fliervoet, J. & Van Den Born, R. (2017) From implementation towards maintenance: Sustaining collaborative initiatives for integrated floodplain management in the Netherlands, International Journal of Water Resources Development, 33(4), pp. 570–590.
Grofman, B. & Schneider, C.Q. (2009) An introduction to crisp set QCA, with a comparison to binary logistic regression, Political Research Quarterly, 62(4), pp. 662–675.
Hardy, C. & Phillips, N. (1998) Strategies of engagement: Lessons from the critical examination of collaboration and conflict in an interorganizational domain, Organization Science, 9(2), pp. 217–230.
Harrington, C. (2017) The political ontology of collaborative water governance, Water International, 42(3), pp. 254-270.
Himmelman, A. T. (2002) Collaboration for a change: Definitions, decision-making models, roles, and collaboration process guide (Minneapolis, MN: Himmelman Consulting).
Huang, C., Yi, H., Chen, T., Xu, X. & Chen, S. (2020) Networked environmental governance: formal and informal collaborative networks in local China, Policy Studies, 43(3), pp. 403-421.
Huxham, C. & Vangen, S. (2005) Managing to collaborate: The theory and practice of collaborative advantage (New York, NY: Routledge).
Im, E., Jeon, S. H., & Kim, J. S. (2017) Which Local Self-Governments Seek More Collaboration? Evidence from Interlocal Collaboration for Economic Development in South Korea, Lex localis - Journal of Local Self-Government, 15(2), pp. 175-197.
Jacobsen, D. I. (2013) Network context, trust and success. Evidence from regional governance networks in Norway, Lex localis - Journal of Local Self-Government, 11(4), pp. 851-869.
Jing, Y., & Hu, Y. (2017) From service contracting to collaborative governance: Evolution of government–nonprofit relations, Public Administration and Development, 37(3), pp. 191-202.
Kapucu, N. (2011) Collaborative governance in international disasters: Nargis cyclone in Myanmar and Sichuan earthquake in China cases, International Journal of Emergency Management, 8(1), pp. 1–25.
Koebele, E. A. (2015) Assessing outputs, outcomes, and barriers in collaborative water governance: A case study, Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, 155(1), pp. 63-72.
Kurkela, K., Virtanen, P., Tuurnas, S., & Stenvall, J. (2019) The Actors Involved in Innovation Processes and Collaboration–A Case Study of Eight Finnish Municipalities, Lex localis - Journal of Local Self-Government, 17(2), pp. 247-266.
Lascoumes, P., & Le Galès, P. (2007) Introduction: understanding public policy through its instruments—from the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation, Governance, 20(1), pp. 1-21.
Liu, Y., Wu, J., Yi, H., & Wen, J. (2021) Under what conditions do governments collaborate? A qualitative comparative analysis of air pollution control in China, Public Management Review, 23(11), pp. 1664-1682.
May, P. J., Workman, S. and Jones. B. D. (2008). Organizing Attention: Responses of the Bureaucracy to Agenda Disruption. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 18(4), 517–541.
Mol, J. M. & Wijnberg, N. M. (2011) From resources to value and back: Competition between and within organizations, British Journal of Management, 22(1), pp. 77-95.
Moseley, A., & James, O. (2008) Central state steering of local collaboration: Assessing the impact of tools of meta-governance in homelessness services in England, Public Organization Review, 8(2), pp. 117–136.
Mu, R., de Jong, M. & Koppenjan, J. (2019) Assessing and explaining interagency collaboration performance: a comparative case study of local governments in China, Public Management Review, 21(4), pp. 581-605.
O'Leary, R. & Bingham, L. B. (eds.) (2009) The collaborative public manager: New ideas for the twenty-first century (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press).
O'Leary, R., Gerard, C., & Bingham, L. B. (2006) Introduction to the symposium on collaborative public management, Public Administration Review, 66(1), pp. 6-9.
Ostrom, E. (1990) Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action (New York: Cambridge university press).
Ostrom, E., Burger, J., Field, C. B., Norgaard, R. B. & Policansky, D. (1999) Revisiting the commons: local lessons, global challenges, Science, 284(5412), pp. 278-282.
Putnam, R. D., Leonardi, R. & Nanetti, R. Y. (1994) Making democracy work (Princeton: Princeton university press).
Ragin, C. C. (1997) Turning the tables: how case-oriented methods challenge variable-oriented methods, Comparative social research, 16(1), pp. 27-42.
Ragin, C. C. (2009) Redesigning social inquiry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
Ragin, C.C. & Davey, S. (2016) Fuzzy-Set/Qualitative Comparative Analysis 3.0. (Irvine, CA, USA: Department of Sociology, University of California).
Ringquist, E. J., Worsham, J. & Eisner, M.A. (2003) Salience, Complexity and the Legislative Direction of Regulatory Bureaucracies, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 13(2), pp. 141–164.
Schneider, C. Q. & Wagemann, C. (2010) Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and fuzzy-sets: Agenda for a research approach and a data analysis technique, Comparative Sociology, 9(3), pp. 376-396.
Schneider, C. Q. &Wagemann. C. (2012) Set-theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences: A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).
Shaw, R., Kim, Y. K. & Hua, J. (2020) Governance, technology and citizen behavior in pandemic: Lessons from COVID-19 in East Asia, Progress in disaster science, 6.
Siddiki, S., Kim, J., & Leach, W. D. (2017) Diversity, trust, and social learning in collaborative governance, Public Administration Review, 77(6), pp. 863-874.
Tang, G., & Wang, F. (2022) What contributes to the sustainability of self-organized non-profit collaboration in disaster relief? A fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis, Public Management Review, 24(3), pp. 466-488.
Taylor, B. D. & Schweitzer, L. (2005) Assessing the experience of mandated collaborative inter-jurisdictional transport planning in the United States, Transport Policy, 12, pp. 500–511.
Thomann, E. & Maggetti, M. (2020) Designing research with qualitative comparative analysis (QCA): Approaches, challenges, and tools, Sociological Methods & Research, 49(2), pp. 356-386.
Thomson, A. M. & Perry, J. L. (2010) Collaboration processes: Inside the black box, Public Administration Review, 66(s1), pp. 20–32.
Xu, C. (2011) The fundamental institutions of China's reforms and development, Journal of Economic Literature, 49(4), pp. 1076–1151.
Vigoda, E. (2002) From responsiveness to collaboration: Governance, citizens, and the next generation of public administration, Public Administration Review, 62(5), pp. 527–540.
Wang, R. Y., Liu, T., & Dang, H. (2018) Bridging critical institutionalism and fragmented authoritarianism in China: An analysis of centralized water policies and their local implementation in semi‐arid irrigation districts, Regulation & Governance, 12(4), pp. 451-465.
Wang, Y., & Chen, X. (2020) River chief system as a collaborative water governance approach in China, International Journal of Water Resources Development, 36(4), pp. 610-630.
Wang, Y., & Zhao, Y. (2021) Is collaborative governance effective for air pollution prevention? A case study on the Yangtze river delta region of China, Journal of Environmental Management, 292.
Woodhouse, P. & Muller, M. (2017) Water governance—An historical perspective on current debates, World Development, 92, pp. 225-241.
Yang, L. (2017) Types and institutional design principles of collaborative governance in a strong-government society: The case study of desertification control in northern China, International Public Management Journal, 20(4), pp. 586-623.
Yi, H., & Cui, C. (2019) Coping with functional collective action dilemma: Functional fragmentation and administrative integration, Public Management Review, 21(7), pp. 1052-1075.
Zheng, Q. & Xiao, W. (2008) Collaborative governance: The governance logic of service-oriented government, Chinese Public Administration, (7), pp. 48–53.
Zhou, L. & Dai, Y. (2021) Within the shadow of hierarchy: The role of hierarchical interventions in environmental collaborative governance, Governance, https://doi.org/10.1111/gove.12664.
Zhou, K. & Xin, G. (2021) Who are the front-runners? Unravelling local government responses to containing the COVID-19 pandemic in China, China Review, 21(1), pp. 37-54.
Zhu, X. (2014) Mandate versus Championship: Vertical Government Intervention and Diffusion of Innovation in Public Services in Authoritarian China, Public Management Review, 16(1), pp. 117–139.