Coastal reform in China : impact of path dependency on port governance

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Coastal reform in China : impact of path dependency on port governance

 

Author: Shou, Chen
Title: Coastal reform in China : impact of path dependency on port governance
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2011
Subject: Harbors -- China -- Tianjin.
Harbors -- China -- Shenzhen (Guangdong Sheng : East)
Harbors -- Government policy -- China.
Harbors -- Management.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Logistics and Maritime Studies
Pages: vi, 163 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2456198
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/6162
Abstract: There is a global trend to devolve port governance through institutional reforms, built on the belief that the efficiency of port operation can improve because the devolved units, notably local governments and the private sector, have a better understanding of local conditions for port operation. Despite the general consensus on devolution, port reform processes vary across regions in shifting control power from central to devolved units, during which local governance structures are reshaped with dissimilar patterns for implementation. The regional difference in reforming port governance through the identical trend of devolution raised an interesting research question on idiosyncrasy of individual ports, which has been deficient in literature. Such idiosyncrasy was regarded as essential in proposing the best practice for guiding the reform process, especially in developing and transition economies where not only the port capacity meeting the demand of soaring trade volume but also the shape and mode of port operation once under centralized governance system is challenged. In this respect, an important question has yet to be addressed. Does the presence of distinctive institutional frameworks affect the likely shape of the process of change and the resulting outcomes? Policy-makers can proceed to localized interpretations and face limitations in their abilities of applying the reform tool, which was practiced in other ports. In this case, the institutional setting stands as factors creating asymmetric implementations when generic solution applies to other geographical scales. By bringing in historical institutionalism and path dependence theory, this study constructs a conceptual framework to examine two case studies-in-depth within-case study of Tianjin port and comparative case study of Tianjin port and Yantian port. Through investigating two successive reforms in Tianjin, a major seaport in China, since the 1980s, the within-case study found that the process and outcome of the second reform could be constrained by the first one with little change in the governance approach by port authority, which secured the exclusive path of individual port in institutional reforms. The analysis was embedded within the process of thick institutionalization, during which informal institution in port governance was reshaped with its interaction of changing formal rules, to indicate the incentives of political actors in maintaining certain institution in governance in response to the changes in formal rules. Such institutional consistency in Tianjin port's second reform indicated that a generic solution to reform could be difficult to change the port governance structure in developing economies with stabilized historical tradition if other complementary steps were not implemented to offer incentives to break such a tradition. To support the argument in the within-case study, the pilot experimentation of Yantian port to separate port operation and administration in 1993 was introduced as a control case to compare with the process of Tianjin case in the second port reform, which was required by the central government to separate its port operation and administration. Through comparing the processes to institutionalize the structural change, the comparative case study found asymmetric implementations were created as Tianjin port secured the historical tradition in strategic activities even after the restructure of governance system but Yantian port established independent port operation from administration with the break with tradition under planned economic system. Thus, this study argues that similar reforms could follow diversified asymmetries in different geographical regions with political-cultural traditions standing as causal factors. In this respect, port policy decision-makers should be cautious rather than a priori accepting generic solution put forward by global institutions. The case study serves as an ideal base to extend similar analysis towards other regions and develop a general theory explaining the ways institutional and political traditions affect the process of reforming a unique, in certain respects, economic sector and, not least, better understanding the evolution ofport development.

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