Skip to content Skip to navigation

Shiran Shen

Shiran Shen

Spring 2017 Graduate Fellowship Recipient
Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development


Shiran Shen is a PhD candidate in political science at Stanford University. Her research mainly delves into the political determinants of environmental policy implementation, especially with respect to air pollution control, public policy analysis related to climate change and environmental health, and environmental justice pertaining to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Her major regions of research interest are China and North America. Shiran holds an MS in civil and environmental engineering from Stanford, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College with a BA in political science and environmental studies.

Fellowship research abstract

Breaking the Pollution Cycle: Career Incentives of Local Leaders and Air Pollution Control in China

The latest report on the “global burden of disease” finds that air pollution caused 5.5 million premature deaths in 2013 alone. Why has pollution been a problem (and even a crisis) when the national government made achieving environmental standards a high priority? Extant works have overlooked a crucial dimension: the influence of political tenure cycles. My project proposes a novel theory of the political pollution cycle, based on empirical evidence mainly from Chinese prefectures, and offers possible pathways to breaking it. I will delve into the changing determinants for effective local implementation of air pollution control policies under the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and especially after the Eighteenth Party Congress in November 2012, since when the status of environmental protection has significantly augmented. This  project will yield critical implications for our understanding of the temporal dimension of environmental policy implementation and local agent behavior in a communist state under nomenklatura control.