This article explains variations in the strategies Chinese local governments apply to address protests against the planning, construction, or operation of paraxylene (PX) plants. We present an analytical framework that identifies government strategies and explanatory conditions. Using a most-similar-system design (MSSD), we compared government strategies adopted by three city governments–Dalian, Xiamen and Kunming–in coping with these protests. In response to PX protests, the Kunming and Dalian municipality continued construction or operation of the PX plant; in contrast, the Xiamen municipality relocated the plant. Our comparative analysis showed that the preference of higher level governments and national mass media, as well as perceived costs, are key conditions explaining these differences. Overall, we conclude that Chinese local governments, due to contradictory pressures and lock-ins, have little room to respond to citizens’ concerns during protests. In our conclusion, we compared our findings with those of an earlier application of QCA on a broader set of cases, including those analyzed here, to validate our findings and clarify the added value of MSSD.

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Keywords Chinese government strategy, Environmental protest in China, most similar systems design, PX protest, qualitative comparative analysis
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Journal Policy Studies
Li, Y, Liu, Y. (Yi), & Koppenjan, J.F.M. (2019). Government strategies in addressing three protests against PX plants in urban China: comparing cases using a most-similar-system design. Policy Studies. doi:10.1080/01442872.2019.1624710