Markus Taube (University of Duisburg-Essen)

Liu Tao (University of Duisburg-Essen)

Katharina Borgmann (University of Duisburg-Essen)

Giulia C. Romano (University of Duisburg-Essen)


Does culture at local level really matter in policy and institutional transfers? And if so, do cultural affinities and geographical proximity increase the “goodness of fit” (De Jong et al. 2002) and the likelihood of successful transfer and local adaptation? Scholars who have worked on policy transfers in East Asia have underlined that culture and local traditions have important impacts on the mediation of policy transfers as well as on the outcomes of local adaptation (Liu and Leisering 2017; Sun 2016; Tan 2015). Hence, it is not possible to disregard culture in the processes of policy transfers and adaptation. However, the thesis developed under the concept of the “goodness of fit” have assumed that certain characteristics (e.g. the system of formal legislation, informal social conventions, cultural and linguistic similarities, historical common roots) may influence positively or negatively the suitability and transferability of models, policies, and institutions, hence the likelihood of transfers and adaptation rises with the proximity of donors and receivers. While evidence strongly challenges this assumption, for instance the cases of difficult transfers from Singapore to China (Inkpen and Wang 2016; Lim and Horesh 2016) and at the same time of successful transfers from Europe and the US to China (Liu and Sun 2016), the aim of this panel is of that of disentangling the notion of “culture” to discover which aspects of it really matter when we analyse policy and institutional transfers. We acknowledge that there exists a tension between global culture and local culture, the first relating to an institutional regular pattern which has a universal validity claim transcending local contingency, while the other relates to the particular and unique customs, conventions and special institutional and bureaucratic settings within the national borders. The first one leads to global convergence and isomorphism; the second one, being situation- and milieu-related, and locally bounded, leads rather to divergence and decoupling from the global values.

Contributions that critically engage with these questions, and more broadly with the question of culture in policy and institutional transfers/diffusion are welcomed. We expect papers taking into consideration different levels of analysis (macro, meso, micro, corresponding to policy discourses, policies, implementation, implementing actors, local practices, etc.) and “granularity” (Taube 2014). We also welcome papers focusing on transfers of different types of policies and institutions, as their outcomes also depend on the nature of what is transferred and the degree of controversy it provokes with local customs and policies (Liu and Leisering 2017; Heilmann and Schulte-Kulkmann 2011).

Leading panel questions:

  • How does local culture impact on the studied process and outcomes? To what extent is tacit knowledge and the correlation to cultural specifics affecting processes of transferring policies, concepts, and frameworks?
  • Are there different/local definitions of “policy success” or “successful transfer” that concur with our own frames for defining success? If yes, what are their characteristics, indicators of success and their mechanisms?
  • Are the objectives of a policy or institution always maintained with the local process of vernacularisation – hence with the local embedding of global scripts to local ones? Or can we notice a substantial change also of the objectives or raison d’être of a policy or institution?
  • Is the embeddedness of concepts taken into account in processes of transfer and at what stage of the transfer and implementation process? And how is it taken into account?
  • Do the methods of analysis of policy/institutional transfers correspond to levels of granularity? How can we improve, adjust or rethink these methods, perhaps with the use of multidisciplinarity?

 We welcome papers with multi scalar approaches and encourage contributions with similar questions extending the list above.


De Jong M., Mamadouh V. and Lalelis K. (2002), The Theory and Practice of Institutional Transplantation. Experiences with the Transfer of Policy Institutions, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 313 p.

Heilmann S. and Schulte-Kulkmann N. (2011), “The Limits of Policy Diffusion: Introducing International Norms of Anti-Money Laundering into China’s Legal System”, Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, vol. 24, n.4, p.639-664.

Inkpen A. and Wang P. (2016), “An examination of collaboration and knowledge transfer: China–Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park”, Journal of Management Studies, vol. 43, n.4, p. 779–811.

Lim K.F. and Horesh N. (2016), “The “Singapore Fever” in China: Policy Mobility and Mutation”, The China Quarterly, vol. 228, p. 992-1017.

Liu T. and Leisering L. (2017), “Protecting injured workers: how global ideas of industrial accident insurance travelled to China”, Journal of Chinese Governance, vol.2, n.1, 18 p.

Liu T. and Sun L. (2016), “Urban Social Assistance in China: Transnational Diffusion and National Interpretation”, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, vol.45, n.2, p. 29-51.

Sun K. (2016), “Culture matters in educational policy transfers: the case of curricular reforms in the two Koreas during the Soviet and US military occupation”, Journal of education policy, vol. 32, n.3, p. 372-385.

Tan C. (2015), “Education policy borrowing and cultural scripts for teaching in China”, Comparative Education, vol. 51, n.2, p.196-211.

Taube M. (2014), “Zur Bedeutung transnationaler Institutionentransfers für den Aufbau einer marktwirtschaftlichen Ordnung in der VR China”, in Apolte, Thomas (ed.), Transfer von Institutionen, Schriften des Vereins für Socialpolitik, Neue Folge Band 340, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, p. 123-168.