Bradford Plumer writes,

Finamore points out, for instance, that if China enforced all the building codes it has on the books, it could cut its energy use dramatically. NRDC is training Chinese building inspectors, who often don’t understand the codes, and helping set up independent certifiers to act as watchdogs. But too many international green groups, Wen notes, avoid this hands-on approach, instead staying in Beijing, writing papers and trying to influence national policy. Nor have governments really stepped in on a local level, either.

Plumer writes as if this problem is specific to energy and environmental issues. However, I have seen it suggested that China needs help enforcing other forms of regulation as well, such as financial reporting. By joining the WTO, China was able to “outsource” some its governmental functions.

I can see how a government could find itself with internal constituents that block enforcement of regulations, and that as a result the government could turn to outside institutions for help. But it’s weird to think of this happening in China. Somehow, the weak central government of China seems like it ought to be an oxymoron.

Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.