Unveiling the quasi-public-private partnership (QPPP): evidence from China’s environmental service sector

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Social Sciences; College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Originating in neoliberal democracies, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is a common policy tool allowing governments to provide public service through collaboration. In some non-liberal societies, PPPs may take different forms and not squarely fit into the classic PPP category, which we label as ‘Quasi-PPPs’ (QPPPs). QPPPs provide important functions especially in economies in transition yet have received little academic attention. Here we propose a general definition of QPPPs as ‘partnerships between a government entity and a not-fully private entity’, and explore factors that influence the PPP-QPPP transition in non-liberal contexts, using the nascent Chinese eco-environmental service partnerships for a case analysis. Drawing on insights from a self-established dataset and interviews, we find that the PPP-QPPP transition involves two-steps: (1) the eco-environmental service partnerships, initially established as PPPs, became inoperable with inexperienced partners and unsupportive markets; (2) with state bailout, the private partner became a subordinated partner in an ‘SOE-private consortium’, and PPPs transitioned to QPPPs. QPPPs brought about two outcomes: hidden debts for the government and the private sector’s nationalization. We conclude that in a non-liberal society, when three critical PPP assumptions, namely competent partners, supportive market, and horizontal structure are violated, PPPs are more likely to transition to QPPPs.

Publisher's Statement

© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1080/1523908X.2021.1880315

Publication Title

Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning