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The Chinese Environmental Movement
Alex Steffen, 28 Jan 06

China, as we've remarked before, is the biggest wildcard in our efforts to build a bright green future.

If China is going to turn away from the disastrous path it has so far followed, it needs a strong citizens' movement advocating for change. As goes the Chinese environmental movement, so goes the world, one might say.

So this report on the health of environmental advocacy in China should be of direct and compelling interest to us all. The upshot? Chinese environmentalists, while working within a very difficult political context, are actually beginning to score some real wins:

China's environmental movement now boasts over 2,000 officially registered NGOs as well as several thousand non-registered groups and environmental businesses. The movement has not only grown rapidly in recent years, but it has learned to skillfully navigate the political landscape. Friends of Nature's Liang Congjia explains how 11 years ago, environmental groups tended to focus on the politically neutral issues of environmental education and species protection. They have since grown increasingly bold, influencing government policy, organizing protests, and filing lawsuits aimed at holding polluting industries accountable and halting dams and other development projects. Particularly notable was a recent successful campaign against dams on the Nu River in Yunnan Province, which brought together a broad range of NGOs, scholars, student groups, and media in one of the fiercest environmental battles in China's history.

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