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Title: Environmental activism and political intermediation : local flexibility in managing protests in China
Author: Liu, Lili
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 2285
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis reveals the underlying mechanisms of local flexibility in managing protests in authoritarian China. Chinese governments are sensitive to popular protests. However, we can still find a relatively high degree of accommodation on environmental protests claiming for policy adjustment in recent years. Why do any local states that are not held accountable to people through democratic ways would like to listen to environmental activists by sacrificing economic benefits, but others not? Instead of just looking at environmental activists that have been studied in most of the literature of Chinese politics, this research pays specific attention to the political intermediation as the process in which local civil society is able to communicate effectively with the authoritarian state. With new empirical data, this study is able to discover the ways in which different patterns of intermediaries repackage local environmental claims as representatives that local officials would like to listen. The bureaucratic hierarchy in China not only shows its policy ambivalence about how to balance tradeoffs between environment and development, but also its political ambivalence—to what extent the authoritarian regime tolerates the pluralism since the bureaucracy itself is not coherent. Central government sends mixed signals towards environmental activism and only parts of them can be accommodated. Local officials are often subjected to different incentives and constraints. This research highlights the environmental advocacy coalition and shows that intermediary figures, such as experts, local People's Congress/Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegates who share political weight but not necessarily have formal standings within the Party power, can establish effective communications between social activists and decision makers. When these figures are respected by political power without inherently contention and possess social capital as far as the civil society concerns, local officials are more likely to accommodate the interests of environmental activists and alter their policy preference. This research finding extends the term of 'consultative authoritarianism', and contributes to the literature in both contentious politics and authoritarian politics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral