Grassroots NGOs, civil society and environmental politics in China

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The research highlights the new phenomenon of the proliferation of non-governmental organizations in China's environmental sector over the last decade (1994-2006), comparing the interactions of NGOs and governmental authorities in the three areas of environmental education, green community construction, and anti-dam campaigns in China. The study argues that the political nature of NGO activities is a major variable that determines the overall NGO-governmental interactions in China's environmental politics, even though other socio-economic variables, including central-local distinction, horizontal agency difference and NGO resources, still matter in some cases. The study further suggests that, in order to accurately capture the new dynamics in changing state society relations in China, it is necessary to differentiate between the related non-governmental activities on the basis of their different political nature rather than to simply treat the non-governmental sector as a whole. In environmental education, NGOs have largely maintained a "harmonious" relationship with relevant governmental agencies since their educational projects are considered largely apolitical. In green community construction, NGOs have developed a somewhat cooperative but potentially challenging relationship with the state due to their mixed roles as both environmental educators and democracy advocates. In dam construction, NGOs have had a contentious relationship with the Chinese state as their anti-dam campaigns are highly sensitive in nature. The study concludes that an NGO-led environmental civil society has been able to survive and develop within a somewhat compromised authoritarian state. While this civil society is relatively independent, it has maintained a largely "harmonious" or cooperative relationship with the Chinese state. Only in limited aspects, has this civil society developed a competitive and even contentious relationship with the Chinese state, even though it has not been able to directly confront the state. However, while it is still fairly weak at this stage, the increasing politicization of NGO activities means that this civil society could have strong implications for environmental governance and future democratization of China.
Bibliography: p. 223-247
Xu, K. (2008). Grassroots NGOs, civil society and environmental politics in China (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/2129