China’s Embedded Activism: Conflict, Civic action and Environment in a Semi-Authoritarian Context

The emergence of social movements is generally seen as an indicator of democratization. The presentation argues that such a view overlooks the nature of political change in China, which entails a more gradual transition. In this light, several questions will be highlighted. What does the limited political space imply for the development of a social movement in China? Is the possibility for a social movement a precondition for the development of civil society? What are the prospects for the emergence of a social movement in China, and how would it relate to international forces? These questions are explored by focusing on one of the most active areas of civil society in contemporary China: the environmental realm. It is maintained that China’s semi-authoritarian political setup in association with increased social spaces for civic action has created a milieu for embeddedness in social movement.