Chapter 4: Strategies for Fragmentary Opportunities and Limited Resources: The Environmental Protest Movement under Communist China in Transition
Kenji Otsuka INTRODUCTION China, during its long history, has experienced numerous cycles of grassroots movements and their repression by governing authorities. In the twenty-first century, China continues to maintain a socialist (communist) state, while shifting its socio-economical system from a planned economy to a market economy. Under the communist regime undertaking the transition towards a market economy, it is a challenging task for people to protest and act against the dominant regime in securing basic human rights. Despite government efforts to establish an environmental policy over the last 30 years since the 1970s, environmental issues are becoming serious social problems. Protests by civilian groups against damage caused by environmental pollution, or plans for development that are feared to cause future environmental pollution and destruction in China, are on the increase. Since the 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in environmental movements have emerged despite continued social control exercised by the Communist Party and the government. Concerning environmental issues in China, only a few articles covering protest movements by local people have been published (Shi and Cai 2006; Zhang 2006, 2007), even though there are already a considerable number of studies on environmental NGO activities (Saich 2000; Ho 2001; Otsuka 2002; Economy 2004; Turner and Lü 2006; Yang 2005). Among the large variety of environmental NGOs in China, most have avoided touching on human rights issues that are considered sensitive to the party and the government. It should be noted, however, that some NGOs have played 79 80 Structure behind political opportunities...
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