2023 Student Research Project | COVID-19: Disrupting the Legislative Path in China? 

Supervisor: Annemieke van den Dool, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy

Student Researcher

Jialin (Cammie) Li is a senior student at DKU majoring in Political Economy with a minor in Public Policy. Her research focuses on policy process theories and policy change in China. Her research has been published in the Policy Studies Journal. For inquiries or potential collaborations, please contact her at jialin.li@dukekunshan.edu.cn

About the Project

The punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) posits that government policies are stable over the long term but can undergo sudden change. Exogenous events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, serve as a potential trigger for policy punctuation. Existing PET research calls for a more precise understanding and conceptualization of the impact of COVID-19. In response, this article aims to investigate the nature and specifics of policy punctuation that occurred during and following the COVID-19 pandemic within the context of the Chinese legislative process. Building on an existing typology of policy punctuation, this research seeks to determine whether the pandemic initiated, reinforced, or terminated policy paths, altered trajectory directions, or cleared existing paths to accelerate policy change. To achieve this objective, this study uses a dataset of 634 laws and amendments passed by the National People’s Congress from 1993 to 2022. Employing qualitative content analysis, I examine the dynamic of legislation change in public health following the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary findings align with existing literature, which suggests that the pandemic can serve as a “path-clearing event,” accelerating pre-planned reforms. Policy change showcases path dependency in adhering to pre-existing core measures, ideas, and goals. In conclusion, this study contributes to the existing literature by systematically examining the punctuated effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Chinese legislative process.