Current Publications

Alliance Building among Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations in China: The Emergence and Evolution of the Zero Waste Alliance

Jian Lu, Heinz Christoph Steinhardt

Despite the Chinese state’s long-standing wariness of strong horizontal linkages among nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and a deteriorating political climate for civil society activism, cross-regional alliances among NGOs have become a persistent phenomenon in recent years. This article draws on the case of the Zero Waste Alliance—a nationwide coalition of environmental NGOs engaged in waste-related matters—to identify structural conditions that encouraged its emergence and illuminate how alliance builders have interpreted their environment. The article argues that developments internal to the environmental NGO sector (an increased need to pool scarce resources and professional knowledge, a stronger inclination to collaborate among a new generation of NGO leaders, and the formation of epistemic communities), combined with conditional state lenience, have propelled activists to embark on a strategy of alliance building. This case illustrates how the perceived boundary of the permissible shifts when structural conditions incentivize entrepreneurial activists to explore new strategies, and these attempts do not provoke repressive responses. It also highlights that the state has remained conditionally tolerant of boundary-pushing NGO behavior in a sector aligning with its interests, while strengthening political control over civil society.

Department of East Asian Studies
External organisation(s)
China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL)
Modern China
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
602045 Sinology, 506014 Comparative politics, 504023 Political sociology
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