Beyond Blue Skies: The Political Implications of China's Environmental Movement

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Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Manju Parikh, Political Science


Environmental protection is quietly becoming China's most promising political issue for citizen participation. In contrast to recent crackdowns in the autonomous region of Tibet, the failed Charter 08 petition in December 2008, and nearing the twentieth anniversary of the failed 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, the government has displayed remarkable tolerance for environmental protests. Though not encouraging protests directly, the Communist Party controlled state has shown support for the environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) at the heart of China's environmental movement.

Despite challenges, there is an independent environmental movement underway in China. Under the official objective of environmental protection, this movement has formed alliances with the media, academics, international organizations and even government officials. Facing increased environmental dissatisfaction by its citizens, and unable to enforce its own environmental protection policy, the Chinese government has institutionalized provisions for public participation in environmental protection.

This project applies the available research and information on China's environmental movement to theoretical frameworks to define and predict its future. From this investigation, it is apparent that the environmental movement has created an atmosphere in China that allows for discussion and debate of certain issues. Promisingly, it has adjusted to the realities of Chinese politics much better than the confrontational social movements before it. Quietly the environmental movement is leading the charge toward a freer and more democratic society in China.