The tranformation of the Shanghai water sector in the reform era : social actors and institutional change
This study aims to evaluate the extent to which Shanghai has coped with freshwater demand
with a focus on water pollution control over the past decade in the reform era since 1990.
Water scarcity caused by pollution associated with the rapidly developing economy since the
1990s has pushed the Shanghai govel11ment, the maj or actor in water policy, to implement a
number of water engineering projects as well as to adopt a number of institutional reforms.
Water policy-making in the Shanghai water sector since the late 1990s has been complicated by
the interaction of the Shanghai govel11ment with other newly emergent social actors, such as
private enterprises, environmental NGOs, and the activities of Shanghai citizens. This
complexity has been compounded by the presence of intel11ational development agencies. A
range of social theory has been used to analyse developments in Shanghai's water policy, such
as the grid/group theory of Mary Douglas, the political ecology theory of I-Iajer, and the coevolutionary
approach of complex adaptive theory. Data and information derived from
interviews with different actors in Shanghai water affairs are used to show that there has been a
growing influence of environmental NGOs coupled with an incremental increase in public
awareness of the need for environmental protection. There has also been a rapid development
of private sector participation in the Shanghai water sector, primarily led by water trans-national
corporations. In addition, the Shanghai govel11l11ent has started to transform itself from a sole
service provider into a regulatory entity overseeing the institutional evolution ofthe water sector.
The thesis concludes that the polarised state-society duality in Shanghai water policy has been
transformed through the contributions of new social actors. Levels of cooperation achieved
have facilitated the early stages of a regulatory regime to guarantee the provision of high-quality
water for Shanghai.