Applying policy network theory in China. The case of the urban health insurance reform
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Abstract In this article, we explore whether policy network theory can be applied in the People’s Republic of China. We made a literature review of how this approach has already been dealt with in the Chinese policy sciences thus far and come to the conclusion that this has been done in some publications, but that these do not utilize its full potential. We then present the key concepts and research approach in policy networks theory in the Western literature and try these on a Chinese case to see the fit. Next, a description and analysis of the policy-making process regarding the health insurance reform in China from 1998 until now is given. Based on this case study, we argue that this body of theory is useful to describe and explain policy-making processes in the Chinese context. However, limitations in the generic model appear in capturing the fundamentally different political and administrative system, crucially different cultural values and applicability of some research methods common in Western countries. In the end, we address which political and cultural aspects turn out to be different in the PRC, how they affect methodological and practical problems that researchers will encounter when studying decision-making processes there and give some preliminary hints how these can be handled.