Environmental governance in China: Interactions between the state and “nonstate actors”

Dan Guttman (First Author), Lydia J. Price (Participant Author), Maoliang Bu (Participant Author), Oran Young (Participant Author), Lingxuan Liu (Participant Author), Michael Spencer (Participant Author), Xiaopu Sun (Participant Author), Harold Wang (Participant Author), Tao Hu (Participant Author), Xinxin Zhang (Participant Author), Rodrigo Zeidan (Participant Author), Bowen Tan (Participant Author), Juan Zhang (Participant Author), Barbara Bramble (Participant Author), Kate Logan (Participant Author), Kathinka Furst (Participant Author), Carmen Chen (Participant Author), Yifei Li (Participant Author), Yijia Jing (Participant Author), Sangwon Suh (Participant Author)Xin Wang (Participant Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal


In the West, limited government capacity to solve environmental problems has triggered the rise of a variety of “nonstate actors” to supplement government efforts or provide alternative mechanisms for addressing environmental issues. How does this development - along with our efforts to understand it - map onto environmental governance processes in China? China's efforts to address environmental issues reflect institutionalized governance processes that differ from parallel western processes in ways that have major consequences for domestic environmental governance practices and the governance of China “going abroad.” China's governance processes blur the distinction between the state and other actors; the “shadow of the state” is a major factor in all efforts to address environmental issues. The space occupied by nonstate actors in western systems is occupied by shiye danwei (“public service units”), she hui tuanti (“social associations”) and e-platforms, all of which have close links to the state. Meanwhile, international NGOs and multinational corporations are also significant players in China. As a result, the mechanisms of influence that produce effects in China differ in important ways from mechanisms familiar from the western experience. This conclusion has far-reaching implications for those seeking to address global environmental concerns, given the importance of China's growing economy and burgeoning network of trade relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-135
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Corresponding author email

djguttman@aol.com, dg109@nyu.edu


  • Belt and Road initiative
  • Environmental governance
  • Nonstate actors
  • she hui tuanti (“social group”)
  • shi ye danwei(“public service unit”)

Indexed by

  • ABDC-A
  • SCIE
  • Scopus
  • SCI


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