Between Subjects and Citizens: Environmentalism & Social Movements in China

This talk discusses the development of social movement and collective action in post-Mao China, and tries to situate environmentalism and environmental protest in this large context. Social movement and collective action in post-Mao China have developed in three overlapping stages. The first stage, between 1976 and 1989, is characterized by the large-scale state-centered protest. The second stage, roughly between 1992 and 2002, is characterized by small-to-medium scale, local, reactive and economic-oriented protest. Environmentalism emerged in this period as a notable exception to this trend. The third stage started around 2002. In this period, rights consciousness greatly increased, and protests turned increasingly proactive and grew a strong populist tendency. Also in this period, environmentalism was largely institutionalized, but not-in-my-backyard type of environmental protest gained momentum. This talk provides an explanation to this pattern of development and speculates on the future trends of collective actions in China.