© 2018

Assessing Water Rights in China


Part of the Water Resources Development and Management book series (WRDM)

About this book


This book presents a model for describing the hierarchical concept of China’s water rights structure, one which takes into account pioneering theories on natural resources and environmental institutional economics. It highlights the basic theory of water rights, with a view to helping Chinese policymakers acquire a deeper understanding of water rights and the need for a reform program in the long-term development of water-poor China. To do so, it draws on three main sources: Cheung SNS’s “Economic Explanation”, Douglas C. North’s “New Economic History” and Ray Huang’s “Macro History”.

The book makes two essential contributions: it elaborates the hierarchical water governance structure in China, which originated in the Qin Dynasty that unified the country 2000 years ago and has been employed without interruption ever since; further, it constructs a choice model for water governance structures and advances the logic of making structural choices with minimum transaction costs under constraint conditions, while also explaining the inherent nature of China’s choice for the hierarchical structure from the perspectives of management cost and cooperation cost. As such, the book enriches and builds on the theories of the “water governance” school represented by Karl Marx, Karl Wittfogel and Ray Huang, laying the foundation for the further study of water rights theory in contemporary China.


Water governance in China Water rights structure in ancient China Yellow river basin Water market of contemporary China Water crisis in China Water allocation scheme Surface water rights structure Utilization of the water resources Water management costs Water rights allocation

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Policy and ManagementTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

About the authors

Dr. Wang is a Professor of the School of Public Policy and Management, and the vice president of China Institute for Rural Studies, Tsinghua University. His main research fields include contemporary China studies and public policy, Institutional analysis and commons governance, water resources management. Dr. Wang received his Ph.D. and Master in management science and Bachelor in hydraulic engineering from Tsinghua University. As a visiting scholar 2009–10 with Prof. Elinor Ostrom at the Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, he is one of the leading scholars to follow up Bloomington School’s tradition studying the commons in China. He was an assistant director of Water Administration Bureau in Yellow River Conservancy Commission for one year, during this period he investigated water management conditions of eight riparian provinces down the Yellow River. Dr. Wang provides consultation for many international and domestic institutes, such as WWF, WRI, AusAID, JICA, CCICED, MWR-China, NDRC-China. He has published ten books and more than one hundred articles in academic journals.

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