Consultation as Policymaking Innovation

Comparing Government Transparency and Public Participation in China and the United States

November 01, 2019

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This article compares government transparency and public participation in consultation—a prominent instrument of policymaking innovation—across China and the United States.  The analysis specifically focuses on consultation at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—leading agencies in the implementation of consultation in policymaking in their respective countries—as a means of evaluating best practices in China relative to a corresponding benchmark in the United States.  Through the collection and coding of information regarding hundreds of proposed policies and thousands of comments submitted in response during the 2002-2016 period, the analysis reveals both similarities and differences in transparency and participation at the MOC and EPA.  Levels of transparency and participation are generally lower at the MOC than in EPA consultations.  Within such constraints, however, there is evidence of standardization in the administration of consultation by the MOC.  These findings suggest that differences in the Chinese and American political systems, rather than issues of administrative capacity, are the primary limitations of consultation as a policymaking innovation in contemporary China.