Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (8): 1205-1221.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1893-1

Previous Articles     Next Articles

Game strategies in government-led eco-compensation in the Xin'an River Basin from the perspective of the politics of scale

REN Yisheng1(), LU Lin2,*(), YU Hu3, ZHU Daocai4   

  1. 1. School of Economics and Management, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241002, Anhui, China
    2. School of Geography and Tourism, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241002, Anhui, China
    3. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    4. City and County Research Center, Anhui University of Finance and Economics, Bengbu 233030, Anhui, China
  • Received:2021-04-29 Accepted:2021-06-20 Online:2021-08-25 Published:2021-10-25
  • Contact: LU Lin;
  • About author:Ren Yisheng, PhD and Instructor, specialized in urban geography and urban economics. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China(41930644)


China's policy on ecological compensation (eco-compensation) in watershed ecosystems is of economic, social and environmental significance for China's ecological governance and protection of natural areas. It involves balancing the interests of regional stakeholders, coordinating the development of regional environments and establishing effective cooperation models, making it a classic topic for geographical research. This study introduces the concept of institutional “stickiness” to the theory of politics of scale to analyze the features and mechanisms of the game behavior of government entities in the process of implementing watershed eco-compensation in the Xin'an River Basin. Our results show the following: government entities at various levels, including the central, provincial and municipal governments, experienced the three stages of game strategy of competition, cooperation and “coopetition”; building a government community of shared interests can promote watershed eco-compensation, and “appropriate intervention” by the central government is key to achieving inter-provincial watershed eco-compensation; there was clear institutional stickiness during the transition from a “vertical” model of watershed eco-compensation to a “vertical-horizontal” model, with government entities using policy innovations and social participation to limit and reduce stickiness so as to reshape the watershed eco-compensation system; scalar jumping is the core mechanism that promoted eco-compensation in the study basin, and government entities shaped the discourse on watershed eco-compensation by redistributing powers and capital and creating informal constraints, which promoted the transformation of eco-compensation from a “strong state-weak society” structural model, to a “strong state-strong society” model in the Xin'an River Basin. These results can provide theoretical support for the construction of inter-regional watershed eco-compensation mechanisms, provide a scientific basis for the rational evaluation and guidance of watershed eco-compensation practices, and promote the coordinated and sustainable socioeconomic development of watersheds.

Key words: eco-compensation, scalar jumping, institutional stickiness, game strategy, Xin'an River Basin