Citizen Environmental Activism in China: Legitimacy, Alliances,  and Rights-based Discourses

Abstract

While China’s environmental problems have been well publicized to a global audience, its citizens’ environmental activism is lesser known.  This paper assesses the major environmental activism that Chinese environmental Non-Government Organizations and Chinese citizens have engaged in since the mid-nineties to date, focusing, in particular, on the unique nature of such activism in an authoritarian context.  I argue that environmental activism in China has garnered legitimacy and provided citizens with opportunities to become agents of social change.  Chinese citizens have become adept at taking advantage of the state’s wish to enforce environmental regulations at the local level, adept at developing alliances with Chinese officials as well as with, in some cases, transnational actors, and adept at using communicative technology to demonstrate and to organize their environmental discontent.  Chinese environmental activism has also helped environmentally affected victims to learn of, and to exercise, their rights as citizens.

Keywords

environmental activism, anti-dam activism, rights-based discourses, state-society relations, authoritarian states, China

How to Cite

Matsuzawa, S., 2012. Citizen Environmental Activism in China: Legitimacy, Alliances, and Rights-based Discourses. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 19(2), pp.81–91. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/ane.33

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Setsuko Matsuzawa (The College of Wooster)

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