Political Ecology of Environmental NGOs in China: Changing relations, changing landscape — ASN Events

Political Ecology of Environmental NGOs in China: Changing relations, changing landscape (14652)

Zoe Ju-Han Wang 1
  1. School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

In recent decades, environmental NGOs (eNGOs) have become increasingly important in addressing environmental issues in China. The majority of Chinese eNGO research views eNGOs as solutions to a democratic society and/or sustainable development. Nevertheless, by adopting political ecology as the conceptual framework, this thesis aims to critically examine how power relations among eNGOs and other actors materially and discursively influence the physical and social landscape in rural China, a country wherein eNGO practices are embedded in their relationships with actors across scales, including donors, international NGOs, different levels of government, and local communities.

Chinese eNGOs are suggested to be constrained both by their international partners and the authoritarian governmental. By conducting ethnographic work on a domestic eNGO and its project area in southwest China, this research argues that Chinese eNGOs are not only shaped by the international agendas, mainstream discourse, governmental policy and politics. More importantly, eNGO practices are greatly modified at the local level, in the context of the competing power of different governments in China and heavy reliance upon international linkages.

By looking into eNGOs projects in rural China, this research empirically demonstrates how transformed eNGO agenda influence rural landscape change shaped by social relations and environmental practices locally. Theoretically, this research challenges the assumptions of several popular concepts Chinese eNGOs adopt, including community participation, empowerment and sustainable development.