Genia Kostka organizes panel on Local Environmental Politics at the Association of Asian Studies
The panel examines innovations and diversification in China's local environmental politics. With its recently published 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) China’s leaders have set ambitious national environmental targets and goals for developing a more sustainable economy and society. Past records, however, show that ambitious goals and regulations too often fail due to shortcomings in local implementation and civil society participation. At the sub-national level, economic, political, and social interests continue to dictate the political agenda and the participation of non-state actors remains limited. This panel analyses these implementation and participation gaps and reviews recent innovations and experiments to address these gaps in local environmental politics in China. Although many ongoing experiments and new institutional arrangements can be identified, these projects and initiatives remain limited in scope and geographical spreading. Further advances in policy enforcements and in opening up policy design to citizens and non-state actors at the local level are needed in order to turn the paper ambitions of the 12th Five-Year Plan into reality. Drawing on findings derived from extensive fieldwork, household surveys, and documentary research, the panel papers highlight the high degree of variation in local environmental politics, with respect to both regions and environmental subject areas. The key contribution of this panel is in focussing clearly on the behaviour of citizens, NGOs, local governments in China’s local environmental policy. In doing so the papers go beyond showing the shortcomings of local implementation by also drawing attention to the innovativeness of these local agents in developing solutions to environmental implementation and participation challenges in China.
Professor Genia Kostka, Dr. Werner Jackstädt Assistant Professor for Chinese Business Studies, presents a paper on “Does Cadre Turnover Help or Hinder China’s Green Rise? Evidence from Shanxi Province”, a paper, which she recently co-authored with Dr. Sarah Eaton from the University of Oxford. China’s national leaders see restructuring and diversification away from resource-based, energy intensive industries as key goals in the coming years. This paper argues that the high turnover of leading cadres at the local level may hinder state-led greening growth initiatives. The cadre rotation system keeps local Party secretaries and mayors on the move in order to curb both factionalism and corruption in the localities. Yet, with average term lengths of between three and four years, high cadre turnover effectively disincentivizes local leaders from taking on comprehensive restructuring, a costly, complex and lengthy process. On the basis of extensive fieldwork in Shanxi province during 2010 and 2011, the paper highlights the significance of leadership continuity for China’s green growth ambitions.