Gloomy future, gloomy sky: Promotion incentives and pollution in China

Chang Xue, Xiaoyu Zhang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


The career prospects of politicians can significantly influence their policy decisions, including those related to environmental protection. This study examines how promotion incentives affect environmental outcomes by analyzing prefectural pollution and personnel data in China from 2003 to 2017. The research indicates that the promotion prospects of prefecture party secretaries were negatively affected by changes in their social networks with the transition of power. The difference-in-differences analyses, using the power transition as a shock, reveal that sulfur dioxide emissions significantly increased in prefectures governed by secretaries who had lost their connections. This was due to a decrease in officials' motivation to prioritize environmental protection, owing to their slim chances of promotion. The possibility of an increase in pollution as a result of growth competition is ruled out. The mechanism is demonstrated through text analysis of local governments' annual work reports.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102504
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Economy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Air pollution
  • Local government policy
  • Promotion incentive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Gloomy future, gloomy sky: Promotion incentives and pollution in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this