A NEW ROLE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS IN ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA
Environmental governance in an authoritarian state is highly dependent on government actors and actions. In the case of China, the state-oriented approach exhibits some shortfalls and fatigue, especially after decades of privileging breakneck economic development over environmental conservation. Recognizing growth is self-limiting if public health and security fail, the state is willing to strengthen environmental policies at the central level. This provides opportunities for institutional change when coupled with bottom-up pressure from a growing middle class and intellectuals who assert their representation of the general public. In order to understand the state-civil society relationship and dynamics of environmental governance in an authoritarian state I chose to analyze a new environmental governance instrument in China, the Environmental Public-interest Litigation (EPiL) policy. Using an empirical case study and action research methodology, I found that civil society organizations in China have attained a functional role in environmental governance vis-à-vis the authoritarian state, albeit subject to constant control and changes imposed by the state as it conducts policy experiments and implements new policies involving nonstate actors. This observation demonstrates that civil society, as a private actor, can complement state agencies to contribute to environmental law enforcement as laboratories for legal theories and practices. It also supports good governance in responding to social-environmental issues and stability of the society at large, given the state remains open to civil society. This research highlights how processes of institutionalization and organizational specialization allow civil society organizations to develop professional capabilities that create opportunities to influence public policy. We see the openings and opportunities are there for civil society organizations, but there is also fluidity in governance in China. These research outcomes invite future studies.
China; civil society organization; Environmental Governance; Environmental Law; Public-interest litigation; state-society relationship
Wolf, Steven A.
Lassoie, James Philip; Stedman, Richard Clark; Zinda, John Aloysius
Ph. D., Natural Resources
Doctor of Philosophy
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
dissertation or thesis
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International