In the late 1990s China started to expand its market economic reform to the public sector, such as water services. This reform led to major changes in urban water management, including water tariff management. The reforms in water tariff management relate not only to tariffs, but also to the decision-making on tariffs. Water tariff decision-making seems to move away from China's conventional mode of highly centralized and bureaucratic policy- and decision-making. The legalization, institutionalization and performance of public hearings in water tariff management forms a crucial innovation in this respect. This article analyzes the emergence, development and current functioning of public hearings in water tariff setting, and assesses to what extent public hearings are part of a turning point in China's tradition of centralized bureaucratic decision-making, towards more transparent, decentralized and participative governance.
- citizen participation