Sustainable Development in Western China

Sustainable Development in Western China

Managing People, Livestock and Grasslands in Pastoral Areas

Colin G. Brown

This much-needed study provides a unique examination of the intricate web of policies and institutions that now impact on grassland degradation and sustainable development in China’s pastoral region. Understanding this complex matrix and its impact on the management of people, livestock, grasslands, markets and industry structures is crucial in charting a way forward. The authors argue that the aim should be to manage these inter-locking complex systems in a manner that takes advantage of the opportunities that technology present to achieve sustainable use of the grasslands.

Chapter 3: Managing Institutions

Colin G. Brown

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, development studies, asian development, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, environment, asian environment


Institutional settings underpin economic activity and public policy including resource management. The complexity of the features and issues associated with grasslands in China as outlined in Chapter 2 suggest that an intricate set of institutional arrangements are needed. Addressing the problems of grassland degradation and herder livelihoods has as much to do with getting these institutional settings right as it does with specific policy instruments. Three different forms of institutional settings are discussed in this chapter, namely property rights, local level institutions and State structures. Property rights — which in the Chinese grasslands context relate not just to land rights, but to rights over livestock and other economic activities — are discussed in Section 3.1. One way to describe and assess the way in which grasslands are managed and supervised in China, as outlined in Banks (2001), is as being ‘co-managed’ by local level collectives or communities (Section 3.2) and by the State hierarchy (Section 3.3). The latter receives little attention in the scholarly literature and so is given particular emphasis in the chapter. The issues that arise from a discussion of institutional settings in the grasslands sector are analysed in Section 3.4. There is a widespread belief in China that the relatively decentralized system of grassland property rights, management, supervision and improvement has failed to protect the grassland resource base. Although this decentralized system will continue as the predominant model on which grasslands are managed and supervised, moves are underway to further develop the State apparatus. Thus challenges facing the...

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