This paper aims to examine the emergence, shape and functioning of China's Top‐1,000 Industrial Energy Conservation Program. The program, implemented since 2006, is generated from a pilot voluntary program and modeled on international industrial efficiency target‐setting programs. The research studies why the program was deviated from the voluntary approach and how the program outcomes have been influenced by the action network.
The historical development of the program is framed by policy network theory, which conceptualizes the causal relations of policy network and policy outcomes. Both primary data and secondary data are used.
In the current Chinese context, the voluntary agreement could not replace the traditional top‐down regulations as policy tools adopted nationwide. However, it can function as a complementary implementation tool to be adopted at the local level.
An in‐depth understanding of the evolution of voluntary agreement on energy efficiency in China will promote the discussion on China's policy‐making process and will provide useful insights regarding its future low‐carbon policy options.
The study provides an empirical application of the policy network approach, a prominent policy process theory that has been popular in many European and some North‐American contexts.
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