Environmentalism and NIMBYism in China : Promoting a rules-based approach to public participation

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Thomas Johnson


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-448
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


Public participation is key to effective environmental governance, yet in China the public's role has been limited. Since 2002, China's environmental authorities have promulgated legislation that provides channels for public participation in planning processes. By defining public participation in legal terms, this legislation has facilitated the emergence of 'rules-based' environmental activism whereby citizens pressurise officials to uphold public participation rules. This phenomenon is examined in the context of an 'environmentalist' - NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) dichotomy. It is found that environmentalist NGOs engage in rules-based activism on a long-term basis to improve the institutional environment for public participation. Although NIMBYs have also interacted with public participation legislation, this is secondary to pursuing their own localised interests. Unlike NGOs, NIMBYs can adopt contentious tactics that exert considerable pressure on local officials to open participatory channels. Both environmentalist and NIMBY activists in China are important in promoting more inclusive decision-making processes and consolidating governance reform. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Environmentalism, Nimbyism, Public participation, Rules consciousness