Chapter 18: Political participation and environmental movements in China
In contrast to traditional state-led governance, intensifying environmental degradation in China has seen ‘new’ forms of governance that criss-cross state and non-state boundaries. This chapter examines the interplay of political participation, environmental movements and state practices, focusing on the case of contemporary China. With a comparison with Western equivalents, the chapter finds that the political authorities respond to environmental activism by a combined mechanism of public inclusion and exclusion. The public is often excluded from participating in official planning processes because the range of policies open to it is limited, even as such public participation in general has featured in only a few handpicked geographical locations where the government is relatively open to such participation. The general public attitudes to participating in formal environmental governance broadly divide into three: willingness to participate; opposition; and no response, depending on the issue in question or even regarding the same issue over time. Five main scenarios of interaction between the Chinese public and the state are presented to assess the array of possibilities surrounding political participation in environmental matters. These five scenarios display complex circumstances in their own right, while underscoring the dynamic nature of political participation concerning environmental matters in contemporary China. The conclusion considers how political ecology research can build on contemporary knowledge about China’s environmental movements, political participation and state practices.
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