|Airpocalypse from my hotel room December 2015|
UCLA's Alex Wang, a veteran of ten years as an attorney for an international environmental group based in Beijing has culled that experience. In a stunning new article in Ecology Law Quarterly he explores the structural contradictions in China's environmental control approach. Contradictions is always the watchword in looking at legal and political developments in China. Like any other country there are regional, sectoral, economic, and public health considerations in contention.
China's political system presents particular problems: effective governance requires environmental controls to protect the public health and productive capacity. The great expansion of policies favoring openness can be seen as a new method of regulation in which citizens and civil society organizations can be enlisted. But China's system is deeply intolerant of independent activity. The Chinese Communist Party's aspirational policies create deep socialist expectations for health, prosperity and opportunity. Engagement of the public serves that purpose. But it is constrained by the CPC's deep penetration of all social institutions - and the Party's full intention to remain the Party permanently in power. Wang explores these issues more comprehensively than anyone else has ever done. - gwc
Explaining Environmental Information Disclosure in China by Alex Wang :: SSRN
by Alex Wang (UCLA)
In recent years, China has adopted a range of measures for information disclosure or “open government information.” This comes as a surprise in an authoritarian system known more for secrecy and information control. Why do authoritarian leaders embrace such mechanisms, and how do state and society actors respond? This Article examines in particular the emergence of environmental information disclosure in China, and makes two main contributions to the scholarly debate on Chinese law and governance. First, this Article demonstrates how local demand for legal transplant can arise out of diverse (and sometimes competing) societal interests. State, society and international actors saw in information disclosure law a range of possibilities - the prospect of improved environmental performance, greater accountability to citizens, and strengthened state control. This interest convergence among strange bedfellows has enabled the seemingly paradoxical flowering of disclosure law in China. Second, this Article unpacks the social effects of information disclosure law in China’s authoritarian bureaucratic governance setting. Where interests are compatible in practice, disclosure has enabled state and society advocacy, and catalyzed new channels for public supervision in environmental regulation. It has also provided a powerful rights-based way for advocates to frame their actions. Yet for all its promise, information disclosure creates risks for those involved and reveals deep tensions in Chinese governance – between authoritarian and bottom-up approaches to rule, and the overarching policy objectives of social stability and performance. These tensions limit the utility of disclosure in practice, with serious potential consequences (e.g., weakened state legitimacy and a hobbled environment) for state and society actors alike.