Book Review. ZHANG, JOY Y. BARR, MICHAEL. Green Politics in China. Environmental Governance and State-Society Relations

Coraline Goron

Hidden behind the somewhat academic title of "Green Politics in China.Environmental Governance and State-Society Relations" is a valuabledepiction of China's nascent grassroots civil society. Whereas the bulk of recent studies on similar topics have focused on the evolving nature of the authoritarian regime, this book’s originality stems from its analysis of state-society relations from a “bottom-up” perspective. The reversed grassroots narrative they persuasively deploy is grounded in both large volumes of Chinese-language scholarly and popular works and extensive field-work including 32 interviews with representatives from 14 organizations across China (though admittedly the bulk are from Beijing -based ENGOs).The authors defend the idea that contrary to mainstream views, Chinese grassroots Environmental NGOs (non-government sponsored, ENGOs) are not the weak and submissive organizations they are normally portrayed, even though they acknowledge the dominance of the State. Instead the “conformist rebels” running them have found creative strategies to push the boundaries of public participation in the non-democratic decision-making process and in doing so have managed to establish a positive dynamic promoting the “green” agenda amongst Chinese society. The authors thereby contribute the scholarship unsatisfied with a dichotomous view of “State” versus “society” in China studies (see e.g. Ho and Edmonds’ China’s Embedded Activism (2008) and Shapiro’s China’s Environmental Challenges, 2012, both discussed here).

Link: here

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.