China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Many countries around the world are experiencing a shift towards stricter authoritarian rule accompanied by shrinking spaces for civil society. Also in China, the political climate has cooled off under Xi Jinping and the maneuvering space for non-state actors has shrunk. At the same time, China’s environmental crisis has continued to grow and threaten the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Well aware of the need to rely on non-state actors for solving the crisis, China’s political elite has continued to open participatory venues in the environmental domain while clamping down on others. In particular, information and communication technologies (ICTs) – embraced by both social actors and the party-state as part of its massive digital governance initiative – are providing new pathways for public engagement that have the potentials to significantly alter environmental governance and the dynamics of state-society relations under Xi.
By investigating the new digitally-enabled spaces for environmental participation in China, arguably the globe’s leading example of digital authoritarianism, and how these are afforded by different social groups both domestically and at a global level, the panel contributes to a better understanding of the digitalized recalibration of state-society relations under Xi and the potentials and limitations of ICT-based participation in a non-democratic context. Drawing on a variety of methods and disaggregating the multitude of environmental actors in China, the panel shows that while ICTs have opened spaces amid the overall tightening of political control, severe limitations remain within the authoritarian framework that hinder society’s contribution to environmental governance.
Virtual Paper Presenter: Maria Bondes – Freie Universität Berlin
Virtual Co-Author: Genia Kostka – Freie Universität Berlin
Virtual Co-Author: Wiebke Rabe – Freie Universität Berlin
Virtual Paper Presenter: Angel Hsu – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Virtual Paper Presenter: Fengshi Wu – University of New South Wales
Virtual Paper Presenter: Yifei Li – New York University