New ThinkChina Analysis: Global City Agency and Multilevel Governance in China
Over the past few decades, cities have become increasingly active in global climate governance. Although most research on city agency has focused on democratic (often Western) cities, the climate-related activities of Chinese cities in global city networks have also expanded, raising the question of whether cities from nondemocratic political systems can be international actors or whether they are merely extensions of their national governments.
This article by Amelie Thürmer, Department of Political and Social Studies, Freie Universität Berlin and Elena Meyer-Clement, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, examine how the Chinese Party-state’s institutions and governing instruments shape cities’ global agency and how these structures impact the work of various city networks operating in China. To this end, it analyzes policy reports, documents, and original interview data collected from city network representatives. The findings demonstrate that city networks in China walk a fine line between their door-opening function for cities to global climate governance and their role as transmitters of the central government’s gatekeeping function, thereby sustaining the hierarchical control structures of the Chinese Party-state.