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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Peter M. Haas

Second Advisor

M. J. Peterson

Third Advisor

Thomas Stevens

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation examines the microprocesses of regime creation in Northeast Asia regarding transboundary environmental problems. Despite the growing need for international environmental cooperation and policy coordination at the regional and global levels, Northeast Asia has not yet succeeded in reaching any binding regional agreement on any environmental issue, even though it has developed various environmental cooperative mechanisms regarding transboundary pollution. Rather than characterizing regional environmental cooperative mechanisms in Northeast Asia as “non-regime,” this study unpacks the varying forms of collective action in terms of the speed of development of cooperative mechanisms and the substantive content of the development undertaken by states in the region. The causal relationships between specific forms of political leadership, knowledge, and socialization and the degrees and forms of regional collective action is explored regarding the transboundary air pollution issues of the region, including acid rain, dust and sandstorms, and various long-range transboundary air pollutants. In addition to comparing the participation of countries in this region in broader Northeast Asian cooperative mechanisms, the study also analyzes the differences between European and East Asian experiences on this topic. An analysis of the three cases indicates that all three independent variables areonly partly associated with varying degrees of collective action as measured by formal features and concrete collective action in Northeast Asia. The study’s comparison of the varying degrees of collective action in Northeast Asia and Europe and among the three studied Northeast Asian environmental cooperative mechanisms discovers two useful insights. First, the analysis supports the hypothesis on social mechanisms among political leadership, shared knowledge, and socialization, which asserts that the stronger the political leadership and the greater the shared knowledge in the region, the more likely participants in regional cooperation are to engage in the learning process of socialization and thereby create the most formal and concrete collective action. The study finds that st strong rong political leadership is not itself sufficient to lead member countries to engage in the learning process of socialization and that a lack of shared scientific knowledge is positively associated with the adaption process of socialization among participants in the cooperative activities of these three regional mechanisms. Another insight is that the lack of shared knowledge and of the learning mode of socialization helps explain why all three regional cooperative mechanisms have failed to advance to becomethe legally binding regional environmental regimes rather than the comparatively higher degrees of collective action in terms of formalization and concreteness among regional entities within the UNEP’s second category of regional action. This study argues that knowledge and socialization barriers are key determinants of the development of regulatory regional environmental regimes. Without shared scientific knowledge and engagement in the learning process of socialization, even given strong political leadership by a participating country, it is not likely for a region to develop a legally binding regional environmental regime.Therefore, this study concludes that to make the transformation from the least formal and concrete collective action to the most formal and concrete depends on creating shared knowledge and the learning process of socialization.