Saturday, August 16, 2008

Zhang Shulan, an Associate Professor at School of Political Science and Public Administration, Shandong University on "Environmental NGOs in China"

Rajiv Ranjan, an M Phil Candidate in Chinese Studies at the Centre, recapitulates the findings of the Zhang Shulan.

Environment protection in China is rather a new happening, initiated by Premier Zhou Enlai at National Conference on Environment in 1973. There are various reasons including ‘environment degradation’, ‘recourses scarcity’ and ‘identity crisis ’. Zhang, in very lucid way, presented broader perspective of environmental NGOs in China. Beginning with review of literature on China’s NGO, her focus was on the very notion of NGOs and ENGOs in Chinese perspective. She countered the ideas of western scholar on the impression of NGOs and GNGOs and justifies her as “this reflects the prejudice of scholars from the developed world in their observations on Chinese NGOs”. Moreover, she termed all social organizations as NGOs, ignoring the fact that GNGOs are created by government, by saying “Though all GONGOs are created by the state for particular purposes, the evolution in their organizational ideologies, the scope of their activities, and the recognition they have obtained from both insiders and outsiders have gone far beyond what the state ever intended”.

She traces the history of development of ENGOs in China and confirms that in 1978, the “China Society for Environmental Science”, set up in Beijing, was first ENGO. Nonetheless, it was created by government. Ironically, many Chinese scholars believe that the first environmental NGO in China was formally registered on March 31, 1994 as the Academy for Green Culture, now called Friends of Nature (FON). Moreover, Shulan also factorized the causes of these developments in China and made globalization, reform policy of China, 1978 and changing attitude towards protecting environment, responsible for that matter. Interestingly, China however, has opened the political space for popular participation in environment protection and permitted the establishment of ENGOs on one hand but on the other hand kept a tight vigilance on the registering and functioning of NGOs through “Regulation for registration and Management of Social Organizations, 1998”.

Overall, the specialty of China's ENGOs consists in the following: firstly, they are single-issued, seldom care about other social problems which are unconcerned with environmental problem. Secondly, majority of China's ENGOs cooperate with the government, although there was an upsurge of environmental movements in China from 2002 to 2003. Thirdly, compared with other kinds of NGOs, China's ENGOs has powerful impacts. They influence the government's public policies on environmental protection.

Comments and Questions:

1. By very definition NGO signifies its meaning. China has government controlled NGOs known as GNGOs. Don’t you think that there is greater need of autonomy for these NGOs to get desired result?

2. Do NGOs have any role of crisis evolving in China, like flood etc?

3. What is role of the NGOs in Tibet and Xinjiang and how they operate in these areas?

4. What is the idea of environment relocation on dams and what role NGOs play in this regard?

5. Are NGOs based on single issue like environment or they also operate on multiple issues?

6. Why there are no NGOs in Chengdu and is there any transformation process of GNGOs to independent NGOs?

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