Handbook on Urban Development in China
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Handbook on Urban Development in China

Edited by Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson

The trajectory and logic of urban development in post-Mao China have been shaped and defined by the contention between domestic and global capital, central and local state and social actors of different class status and endowment. This urban transformation process of historic proportion entails new rules for distribution and negotiation, novel perceptions of citizenship, as well as room for unprecedented spontaneity and creativity. Based on original research by leading experts, this book offers an updated and nuanced analysis of the new logic of urban governance and its implications.
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Chapter 20: Environmental protest in urban China

Thomas Johnson


This chapter examines the phenomenon of urban Chinese opposition to so-called ‘locally-unwanted-land-uses’ including chemical plants and waste incinerators. It argues that mounting contention is rooted in shortcomings in the planning, decision-making and regulatory processes, which are manifested in low trust in the state. These environmental disputes are narrow and localized, but raise questions about citizen participation, accountability and transparency that transcend the immediate local environment. However, the prospects for a ‘scaling-up’ of protest into a bigger movement appear bleak. Protests that potentially go beyond a narrow local focus, such as anti-smog contention, are liable to trigger state suppression.

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