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Highlighted Publications - Spring 2022


This section highlighted some of the academic publications of the core faculty members in the Division of Public Policy (PPOL) from January to June 2022. To view the full list of publications of PPOL core faculty members during this period, please click here.


He, J., Li, Z., Zhang, X., Wang, H., Dong, W., Du, E., Chang, S., Ou, X., Guo, S., Tian, Z., Gu, A., Teng, F., Hu, B., Yang, X., Chen, S., Yao, M., Yuan, Z., Zhou, L., Zhao, Xiaofan, Li, Y. & Zhang, D. (2022). Towards carbon neutrality: A study on China's long-term low-carbon transition pathways and strategies. Environmental Science and Ecotechnology, 9, 100134.
This paper compares six-long term development scenarios in China. For each scenario, the authors present a set of quantitative evaluations of carbon emissions pathways, energy transformation, technology, and policy and investment demand. Results indicate that reaching carbon neutrality before 2060 requires an average annual drop in CO2 of 9.3% between 2030 and 2050. Such a reduction implies enormous investment in energy infrastructure, emissions reduction technologies, and breakthrough technologies. A long-term development strategy that can balance decarbonization and socioeconomic development is critical for the country.


Ahl, A., Goto, M., Yarime, Masaru, Tanaka, K., & Sagawa, D. (2022). Challenges and opportunities of blockchain energy applications: Interrelatedness among technological, economic, social, environmental, and institutional dimensions. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 166, 112623.
Based on qualitative content analysis, expert interviews, and discussion in recent literature, this paper studies the practical challenges and opportunities that blockchain applications offer. Instead of focusing solely on technology, this paper employs a multi-perspective approach. Results show that the main issues are scalability, data privacy, cost of change, market dynamics, user experience, skills, multi-stakeholder governance, and regulatory change. Major opportunities also arise from these domains. These include blockchain advancements, power market development, user research, and regulatory sandboxes. Moreover, a holistic approach that integrates these domains is crucial to the success of corporate strategies and public policy development related to blockchain and other emerging technologies.  


Sakti, A. D., Fauzi, A. I., Takeuchi, W., Pradhan, B., Yarime, Masaru, Vega-Garcia, C., Agustina, E., Wibisono, D., Anggraini, T.S., Theodora, M.O., Ramadhanti, D., Muhammad, M.F., Aufaristama, M.,  AMP Perdana, & Wikantika, K. (2022). Spatial prioritization for wildfire mitigation by integrating heterogeneous spatial data: a new multi-dimensional approach for tropical rainforests. Remote Sensing, 14(3), 543.
This paper pins down priority areas for wildfire mitigation in Indonesia by applying a multi-dimensional approach consisting of disaster, environmental, historical, and administrative parameters by consolidating 20 types of multi-source spatial data. Results suggest that 379,516 km2 of forest in Indonesia are categorized as high-priority. Most priority areas for wildfire mitigation are located in Sumatra, Kalimantan, and North Maluku. Approximately 19.5% of these areas have suffered from deforestation due to wildfires during the last decade. Moreover, 5.2% and 3.9% of these areas are located in oil palm and mining areas, respectively. These findings assist efforts to select high-priority areas for the REDD+ program and land use evaluation.


Kyaw Thu, M., Beppu, S., Yarime, Masaru, & Shibayama, S. (2022). Role of Machine Learning and Organizational Structure in Science. Working Paper.
Through bibliometric analyses of 25,000 scientific publications in a wide range of disciplines, this paper examines the team structure of machine learning (ML)-related projects and their contribution to scientific knowledge production under a variety of team structures. Results indicate that interdisciplinary collaboration between domain scientists and computer scientists and the participation of interdisciplinary experts are prevalent in ML-related projects. Moreover, the involvement of interdisciplinary experts is critical to achieving seminal and pioneering discoveries. Last but not least, the depth of ML determines the contribution of ML and its implications to team structure.


Zhu, Pengyu & Tan, Xinying (2022). Evaluating the effectiveness of Hong Kong’s border restriction policy in reducing COVID-19 infections. BMC Public Health, 22(1), 1-19.
This paper first merges big data from Baidu Population Migration with meteorological data and census data from over 200 Chinese cities. Next, it applies the synthetic control modeling approach to simulate a counterfactual “synthetic Hong Kong” without a strict border restriction policy. It then compares the infection trends between the simulated scenarios with the actual infection dynamic. Results show that the COVID-19 infection number in the simulated scenarios is lower than in the actual scenario. This paper suggests that the border restriction policy may not effectively restrain the spread of COVID-19 when the virus is already circulating in the city. 


Zhang, S., Yi, B., Guo, F., & Zhu, Pengyu (2022). Exploring selected pathways to low and zero CO2 emissions in China's iron and steel industry and their impacts on resources and energy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 340, 130813.
Zero CO2 emissions pathways in China’s iron and steel industry and their impacts on resources, energy, and water are explored by applying the MESSAGEix-China iron and steel model that incorporates the process-based technology of the sector into the IIASA’s MESSAGEix structure. Multiple pathways to reaching zero CO2 emissions in the country’s iron and steel industry before the end of the 21st century are identified. In all these pathways, CO2 emissions decreased substantially between 2030 and 2060 because of the swift transition to 100% scrap-based Electric Arc Furnaces (EAFs) and hydrogen-based Direct Reduced Iron (DRI)-EAF steel-making technologies. Nevertheless, China will still need carbon sink or negative emissions technologies to neutralize 70-360 Mt of CO2 emissions from China’s iron and steel industry. Moreover, the impacts of various technologies for achieving zero emissions on the consumption of materials and energy vary. Last but not least, this paper recommends a cross-cutting strategy to achieve zero CO2 emissions and promote materials recycling, clean energy, and clean water.


Zhu, Pengyu, & Mo, H. (2022). The potential of ride-pooling in VKT reduction and its environmental implications. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 103, 103155.
By simulating an ideal situation in which all riders are open to ride-pooling, this paper shows that ride-pooling can lower aggregate Vehicle Kilometer Travel (VKT) by 8.21% compared with a standard ride-hailing mode in a mid-size city, Haikou. It also reduces petroleum consumption by 1,234,164 liters and carbon emissions by 3,308 tons every year. Moreover, the impact of ride-pooling on VKT reduction depends crucially on buffer time and the time of day. The paper develops a decision model that can be used to achieve an optimal balance between social benefits and riders’ costs. In addition, this paper concludes that ride-pooling services, if implemented massively and efficiently, can play a crucial role in effecting sustainable transportation.


Zhu, Pengyu, Huang, J., Wang, J., Liu, Y., Li, J., Wang, M., & Qiang, W. (2022). Understanding taxi ridership with spatial spillover effects and temporal dynamics. Cities, 125, 103637.
Based on GPS-tracked taxi trips, mobile signaling data, and points of interest (POIs) data, this paper uses spatial econometric models to analyze taxi demand in Beijing at a 1-kilometer square grid resolution. Results indicate that road network density has the greatest (positive) direct and indirect effect on taxi ridership during the morning and evening peak hours. Moreover, directly and indirectly, bus coverage increases taxi pick-ups and drop-offs, while the direct impact of  subway coverage is negative. Moreover, the impacts of key built-environment factors on taxi demand are heterogeneous during peak times in the morning and evening. This paper unravels the complex nature of taxi ridership and offers important insights for policymakers, transport planners, and other stakeholders in metropolitan cities worldwide.


Low, Donald (2022, February 18). The 3 most likely scenarios of how the pandemic in Hong Kong ends. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
This article first indicates that Hong Kong authorities missed an opportunity in 2021 to improve its public health capabilities to mitigate future outbreaks of COVID-19. Therefore, the city was underprepared to tackle the highly transmissible Omicron in early 2022. Second, this article illustrates three possible scenarios depicting how the pandemic in Hong Kong ends. In the first scenario, Hong Kong will further intensify its efforts with the dynamic zero-COVID strategy. In the second scenario, Hong Kong will live with COVID. In the third scenario, Hong Kong will be a pathfinder in implementing a creative mitigation strategy suitable for the city and compatible with anti-pandemic policy in China. Such a strategy may also provide important insights for policymakers in China.


Hartley, K. & Low, Donald (2022, March 30). Hong Kong must rebuild public trust to strengthen its crisis response, as Covid-19 mass-testing debacle shows. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
This article suggests that the lack of public trust and social capital, in addition to insufficient mobilization capacity, is a salient reason for the debacle of COVID-19 mass-testing in Hong Kong. If public trust and social capital further diminish, the government will encounter additional obstacles to implementing other policies in the future. This article recommends that the government create more space enabling community groups to react to crises and strengthen its relationship with civil society insofar as the government alone cannot supply public and social services in all areas.


Zhao, Xiaofan, & Qi, Ye (2022). Three Decades of Climate Policymaking in China: A View of Learning. Sustainability, 14(4), 2202.
This paper reveals that the history of climate policymaking in China between 1990 and 2021 can be considered a conceptual learning process. In the first stage of the conceptual learning process, the government has reconceived climate change from a scientific and diplomatic problem into a developmental and strategic issue. In the second stage, the government switched the focus from avoiding climate action to reinvigorating economic development through climate action. In the third stage, the government has reshaped its climate change strategy from mitigation to adaptation and from centralized governance processes to more diversified coordination. 


Liu, Z., Deng, Z., He, G., Wang, H., Zhang, X., Lin, J., Qi, Ye, Liang, X. (2022). Challenges and opportunities for carbon neutrality in China. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 3(2), 141-155.
This paper summarizes the key features of China’s CO2 emissions, reduction processes, and successes in meeting climate targets. Decarbonization in China has been sizable. Between 2005 and 2020, carbon intensity was lowered by 48.4%. Nevertheless, it is still challenging for the country to reach its peak total CO2 emissions before 2030 and realize carbon neutrality before 2060. Critical steps towards the country’s carbon neutrality include increasing its non-fossil energy share, large-scale adoption of negative-emission technology, supporting regional low-carbon development, and creating a nationwide ‘green market’. The alignment of top-down socio-economic development plans and bottom-up economic incentives and technology development is crucial to achieving these steps.


Dong, C., Li, J., & Qi, Ye (2022). Decomposing PM2. 5 air pollution rebounds in Northern China before COVID-19. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 29(19), 28688-28699.
This study analyzes the PM2.5 trend for 136 northern Chinese cities from 2015 to early 2020. Results indicate that average PM2.5 concentrations in northern China increased by 5.16 µg/m3 in 2019, countervailing 80% of the reduction in 2018. A multiple linear regression analysis attributes half of this PM2.5 rebound to anthropogenic factors relating to deep cuts in PM2.5 concentrations in the preceding year, adjustment of mitigation targets set by the government, and the rising marginal cost of PM2.5 abatement measures. Thus, this paper recommends a more sustainable plan that targets critical regions during key emissions periods for future PM2.5 emission reductions.


Zhu, M., Qi, Ye, & Hultman, N. (2022). Low-carbon energy transition from the commanding heights: How state-owned enterprises drive China’s wind power “miracle”. Energy Research & Social Science, 85, 102392.
Through comprehensive and in-depth field investigation, this paper demonstrates that the wind power investment decisions of central state-owned enterprises (CSOEs) in China were not mainly driven by top-down political imperatives. Instead, wind power projects were pursued by marginalized subsidiary companies of CSOEs as practical business opportunities to survive and grow. Although headquarters of CSOEs generally considered wind power an unconventional energy source without strong profitability, institutional changes and market reforms in the power sector and among state-owned enterprises during the early 2000s motivated CSOEs to engage in wind power investment projects to enhance profit. This finding contradicts the conventional assumption that CSOEs invest in wind power to fulfill political objectives.


Li, Veronica Qin Ting, Ma, L., & Wu, Xun (2022). COVID-19, policy change, and post-pandemic data governance: a case analysis of contact tracing applications in East Asia. Policy and Society, 41(1), 01-14.
Through a comparison of the use of contact tracing and monitoring applications in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, this paper analyzes the potential benefits and risks regarding the design of contact tracing applications and the participation of stakeholders across phrases of the policy cycle to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Results indicate that although COVID-19 has not altered the nature of subjects such as public trust in data governance, the growing involvement of big tech in data policies, or data privacy risks, these subjects have been magnified and become more controversial as the adoption of data technologies has accelerated. 


Wu, Xun, Shi, L., Lu, X., Li, X., & Ma, L. (2022). Government dissemination of epidemic information as a policy instrument during COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from Chinese cities. Cities, 125, 103658.
Through a content analysis of 14,637 news items from the portals of 79 municipal governments in China, this paper measures the comprehensiveness, responsiveness, and privacy protection of governments’ epidemic information practices and examines the patterns and determinants of dissemination of epidemic information. Results suggest that information dissemination patterns of COVID-19 cases in local neighborhoods vary across cities. These patterns are determined by the government's open data performance, the severity of the pandemic, the administrative levels of the cities, population, and health sector capacities. These findings provide theoretical and policy insights into government dissemination of epidemic information.


Chow, J., Du, C. D., & Wu, Xun (2022). Uncertainty and collaborative governance: the role of science in combating shipping air pollution in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area, China. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 1-13.
Based on a case study of shipping emissions control, this article analyzes uncertainties in air pollution policy formulation in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area and the importance of science in minimizing these uncertainties to facilitate collaborative governance. Results suggest that science can reduce uncertainties and strengthen collaborative governance by tackling major challenges brought up by other scholars.


Wang, J., Chandra, Kevin, Du, C., Ding, W., & Wu, Xun (2022). Transformation of Cross-Border Regional Innovation Networks: A Case Study of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. In Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Comparative Perspectives (pp. 185-210). Springer, Singapore.
Based on publication, patent, and entrepreneurship activity data, this article explores the transformation of Hong Kong and Shenzhen with a focus on their innovation activities. Electronics and ICT are the main high-tech sectors in both cities. Results point to a high complementarity of innovation resources between the two cities. However, the structure of each city's local innovation system is unbalanced. The innovation system in Shenzhen tilts toward the industry sector, while innovation activities in Hong Kong are predominantly academic. This paper suggests that if the cross-border regional innovation networks between the two cities are connected more extensively, their innovation systems can play a more balanced role between key innovation actors.


Gietel-Basten, Stuart, Matus, Kira, & Mori, R. (2022). COVID-19 as a trigger for innovation in policy action for older persons? Evidence from Asia. Policy and Society, 41(1), 168-186.
Analyzing policies across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Vietnam, this paper shows that COVID-19 responses sped up and scaled up existing policy programs. Moreover, it identifies two domains where COVID-19 policies have the greatest potential to generate long-lasting innovation in Asia. The first is infrastructural enhancements to ensure access to benefits and the development of remote banking. The second is well-being and caring support, e.g., telemedicine, delivery services for medical and other supplies, and remote support for the elderly. These findings are consistent with “acceleration” models of policy change. 


Sharif, Naubahar, & Chandra, Kevin (2022). A comparative analysis of innovation policies in Hong Kong and Shenzhen within the Greater Bay Area initiative. Science and Public Policy, 49(1), 54-71.
This paper finds that Hong Kong’s innovation policies are diverse, fragmented, and overlapping. In contrast, Shenzhen’s innovation policies are more targeted with a clear division of duties and concentrated in strategic emerging industries. Integration between the two cities is taking place but is weak. To strengthen integration, Hong Kong and Shenzhen can collaborate in four domains: talent recruitment, joint R&D activities, enterprise competitiveness, and support for start-ups. Moreover, this paper argues that the integration of innovation activities between the two cities could be the main force driving the development of the Greater Bay Area.