Monday, May 10, 2010

Environmental NGOs In China: Government’s Pull & Push

Following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China once again shows the image of its new power through the Shanghai World Expo recently. Thirty years of reform(1978-2008) have turned China into one of the largest and most dynamic economies in the world, however, China need to pay a heavy price for catching up the developed world.

Considering for instance that, China ranked 129th among 142 countries for which environmental sustainability was evaluated. China’s rapid industrial development over the past three decades leads to heavy pollution and environmental degration. Chinese government and the general publics have a growing concerns over the environment deterioration. The central government has responded by developing new policies, laws and regulations which aimed to protect the environment, while China’s current environmental policy, regulations and bureaucratic politics concerning environmental protection reflects the government should improve its governance structure rather than simply increasing funding and technologies investment(Gnag 143). Recognizing the need for an alternative to a totalitarian state governance, the state have turned to non-state actors to share the environmental protection burden. Environmental Non-governmental Organization have become a significant role in green policy making, while they are not as strong and influential as their international peers(Gang 41). Focusing on how ENGOs grow under the scope of central government’s state environmental protection system, this paper explores the growing history of ENGOs, ENGOs’ roles which bounded by the central governments, and the symbiotic relationship between ENGOs and the government.

Growing Power of ENGOs

China had no environmental non-governmental organizations(ENGOs) until 1994. The establishment of Friends of Nature in 1994 kicked off the rapid growth of ENGOs in China. According to Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, there are 3,539 environmental NGOs in China by the year 2008, which including government-sponsored ones, grassroots ones, branches of international organizations as well as school environment societies. More ENGOs have been known as Global Village of Beijing, Green Home, together with Friends of Nature are the three most important ENGOs in China.

With China’s modernization, ENGOs occupy a niche in the decision-making process of environmental decision. In recent years, Chinese NGOs have increasingly made their voices heard on public policy issues. One of the example could be highlighted is the campaign by environmental NGOs against the building of a hydropower station on Nujiang (river) in southwest China. This campaign is first initiated by the Green Home (lvjiayuan), and then corporate with other ENGOs like Friends of Nature and Global Village to work out the campaign. The campaign eventually led to a written instruction from Premier Wen JiaBao, which makes a more cautious approach towards the construction of controversial hydroelectric power dam. And the Nujiang Project was postponed until the further step of environmental impact assessment. Enven though the Nujiang project has only been temporarily put on and the construction of a big dam on Nujiang is inevitable, this campaign was regarded as a reflection that ENGOs are becoming increasingly active in the public policy arena.

Bounded role of ENGOs

Even though there is a trend that ENGOs gaining more prominent role in environmental policies making and implementation, ENGOs role is still constrained under the central government. “According to the revised(1998) regulations governing registration and management of social organizations, NGOs must formally register with the Bureau for Administration of NGOs, a section within the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Failure to register means the NGO cannot become an independent and legal social organization, and will not have a sponsoring unit”(Schwartz qtd Jiaman 37). It means NGOs need to first undergo examination by a government bureau with a connection to the NGO’s area of interest. The relevant government bureau plays a fateful decision role for the ENGOs. Specifically, registration of ENGOs can be refused if the government evaluate ENGOs activities and statements to be less of social interest. While social interest is a hard concept to defined, and environmental protection often loses to the more attractive economic development to a developing countries as China, Chinese ENGOs will be easily closed down at the beginning if they are interpreted as unnecessary or unsatisfactory(Schwartz 38).

Obviously, Chinese ENGOs are restricted by their nature of governmental structure, while there is another significant obstacle to their activities are the lack of competent human capital. As Schwartz point out that, “While many staffers may be well educated and committed to environmental protection, the vast majority have little or no environmental science or professional background”(38). On one hand, Many of the Chinese ENGOs are facing the problem of lacking professionals. China is a typical authority-oriented countries, and as there is generally little enthusiasm for NGOs among the few highly trained professionals who do exists, those professionals often view ENGOs as relatively weak organizations. As in the campaign of Nujiang project’s success are contributed by the effort of journalists. Many activist in environmental NGOs are journalist, they were able to use the media to attack the Nujiang project and to mobilize public opinion to against it(YiYi ). Lacking sufficient number of experienced and well-trained members, ENGOs are limited to their capacity to evaluate or enforce environmental policies and gaining public support in their activities.

On the other hand, another human capital challenge for the Chinese ENGOs is the future following the departure of the founders. “The most successful Chines ENGOs depend on the personal status and abilities of lead figures”(Schwartz 39). Examples as Wu Deming of Chongqing Green Volunteers (CGV) and Liang congjie of Friends of Nature, both of them are famous person with many personal contacts and able to covey their ENGOS’ ideas directly to government decision makers. Laking good name of founders, Chinese ENGOs lack a tool to influence the official agenda and gain reputation from the general publics.

Symbiotic relationship

Enven though the roles of Chiese ENGOs are restrained by the governmental structure of central government, and bounded with the philosophy of authority-oriented. there is a trend that Chines ENGOs actors are expected to maintain a symbiotic relationship with government. The government have also turned to the non-state actor to share the environmental protection burden.

In the case of Nujiang Project, the campaign in fact started from within the government, which some officials in the State Environmental Protection Agency were proposed to the Nujiang project, while they lack of the power to veto it. So they asked the NGOs contacts to drum up support for their position. Through out the whole campaign, there is a clear Chinese characteristic of ENGOs that worked closely with their allies in the government. Chinese ENGOs need of government support does not detract from their ability to carry out effective advocacy.

Chinese ENGOs often operate in a way that is very different from ENGOs in most other countries, while most ENGOs elsewhere often defend their independence from the government as essential, many Chinese NGOs view the informal and formal ties with the government as an invaluable asset. For many years the government has been the sole provider of social services, many ordinary people still have poorly trust over private institutions. Chinese ENGOs therefore need government endorsement to gain public trust. To keep in a symbiotic relationship under the pull and push of government may help Chinese ENGOs to be in an active role in environmental public policy arena.

Work Cited

Gang, Chen. “Politics of China’s Environmental Protection: Problem and Progress”. World Scientific Publishing Co.Pte.Ltd.2009. Print.

Gang, Chen. “A Long Way to Go Green: Rethinking China’s Environmental Policy, Laws and Governance.” China’s New Social Policy: Initiatives for a Harmonious Society, Eds. Zhao Litao, Lim Tin Seng. World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.2010. Print.

Schwartz, Jonathan. "Environmental NGOs in China: Roles and Limits." Pacific Affairs 77.1 (2004): 28-49. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 May 2010.

Yiyi Lu. “NGOs with Chinese Characteristics”. Beijing Review. Jun 30,2005. Vol.48.Iss.26;pg.16. Access through Proquest Databases.

China’s Environmental NGOs’ influence increases. Web. May 9.2010

Further Link to Chinese ENGOs:(English guidance)
Friends of Nature:
Chinese NGOs online:

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Body Shop: The only one way to be beautiful?

“You are beautiful, but sometimes you may need a helping hand, it’s about making the best of yourself.” With an acoustic and natural sound, without a beautiful formal clothe but a long-white dress, without a magnificent make-up accommodates but a simple-smiling face. Nature’s Way to Beautiful has continued The Body Shop’s style: simple and natural.

The Body Shop made its green advertising by the claim “Nature’s way is the only way to be beautiful.” As most skin appliances and cosmetic companies, The Body Shop targets its audience mainly as women who care about their beauty in a natural way. Apparently, every woman dose care her beauty. The Body Shop has more than 10 categories of different product lines, which including bath & body, fragrance, make-up, hair and skin care. And its product lines ranges from body wash, anti-age, shampoo, to massage oils. There is no speak aside in introducing the function of new cosmetic product, but an acoustic sound and changing natural images in highlighting the three keep values in The Body Shop’s business: Activating self-esteem, supporting community trade and protecting our planet.

This commercial was mainly divided as three parts within two minutes time period. Its background color tone is “green”; it helps remind the audience that the basic color tones of The Body Shop’s product package and store-design. In this commercial, it presents large amounts of images of the natural environment, and taking turns with sentences of words in the screen instead of speak aside. And leads the audience to think from self-esteem to community image. Then to the core question of what is the way to be beautiful. And finally show up the answer: The Body Shop could provide you the nature’s way to be beautiful.

Nature’s Way to be beauty has successfully addressed its “green” image by using adaptable symbolic patterns. Firstly, from the beginning of the ads turns out the sentence “You are beautiful whatever your quirks. It’s about making the best of yourself.” And there is a talk and slim white model taking her dresses and hairstyle, and showing her beautiful faces and lovely smiling. This part could be considered as activating the self-esteem of the audience by telling them you have the need and right to be beautiful. As well as sending the message that The Body Shop could address your need in an easy natural way. And then the image transfer into a forest background which the girl leading the audience to explore the nature ingredients which The Body Shop uses in making its products. Fresh aloes, growing blousons, and rich fruits, all theses natural plants indicates that the green corporate philosophy of The Body Shop.

Secondly, Nature’s Way to Be Beauty coveys the theme of community building and community service. In the second part of this commercial, it presents a picture of “the community who depends on it.” Within 20 seconds period, it presents the image of traditional craftspeople, rural cooperatives and tribal villages. No matter old people and children, no matter men or women, they are showing a smiling faces in the commercial. The laughing faces of the children and highly skilled craftspeople, these images helps to further inserts a green corporate images of The Body Shop. “The community who depends on it” create the company’s image of corporate social responsibility by indicating The Body Shop’s commitment to trading fairly and responsibly with its suppliers in access to a global market. It maintains its reputation by making the commitment to invest a community-based business that delivers valuable products to customers while generating profitable growth for the company and community. It’s sufficient rhetoric if the audience “believed” a community somewhere in the world could benefits if they buy a fabulous pampering products.

Furthermore, the commercial move to a broader scale by presenting the image of natural environment, the flowing river, the wildlife and the sweeping hills. And the white model standing on the top of mountain confidently and hopefully. And the sentence show out “ Because we believed that the only way to be beautiful is the natural’s way.” The whole commercial ends with the logo of The Body Shop. The images of the nature environment is a good indicator in linking The Body Shop’s green commitment to demonstrate the positive value of its act, the purity of its purpose. And the word “we” had occurs for four times within two minutes commercial. In the end it states “And standing up for causes that are important to the world we live”, thoses kind of "we" sentence help to create a common ground for the individual involvement. The audience is thus invited to identify with the company’s effort to protect our environment.

Overall, the campaign has successfully in employing the effective elements in building a green advertisement. pictorial elements,written material and music are centralized to the key line that: How we should define beauty? This is a tough question could be answered in different ways. And this commercial did successfully showed to the audience that the definition from The Body Shop: Nature’s way. It’s a sufficient appeal to those who care about their body health and ingredients of the products.

However, there are some critiques I want to point out after seeing this advertisement. On one hand, The Body Shop claimed that the natural and confidently way is the only way to be beautiful. But the model it used in the commercial is still slim, white and have a exquisite face. She is still in the category of typical beauty. On the other hand, I was doubted that buying natural ingredients in making skin care product is kind of destroying the environment since in will cause an increasing demand especially facing the global market pressure. And if the natural way is the most beautiful way, I would argue they why we still need to buy that kind of product to build up our beauty? It seems there is still long way to refine the concept beauty in people’s mind by just buying the Body Shop’s product.

Further Information Link:

-The Body Shop Blog:

-TBS Values & Campaigns:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

News Analysis: Deep concern over Three Gorges Dam

News Link:

The construction of Dam used to be regarded as the symbol of progress in 1970s. However, conflicts in the building over large dams in Yangtze River, India’s Narmada Valley, in Southeast Anatolia, and in the Mekong Basin had paralyzed governments and financial institutions throughout the 1990s. Dam itself is not right or wrong, but whether the building of dam has live up to their promise is controversial. The article being analysis is based on several concerns about the environmental problems caused by the building of Three Gorges Dam--the world’s largest hydro-electricity project in China.

The headline of the news seems to maintain an unbiased position of the author as he used the word “concern”, however, “Deep concern” usually is used together to indicate bad or negative discovery. And the techniques of using risk and threat appeal in reporting environmental news could also found in this article. As following by the lead paragraph, “There are fears that China’s Three Gorges Dam is causing serious environmental problems, despite official claims to the contrary.” It seems that the key word in the lead paragraph is “fear” and “despite official claims to the contrary”, which seems to set down the voice of officials and confirm the serious environment catastrophe was causing by the building of Three Gorges Dam.

The body of the news could be mainly divided into three parts: The first part is the introductory about there are continuous debates on environmental issues accused by Three Gorges Dam among different groups of people, which include: local farmer, local officials and Chinese central government. And the second part is description about landslide and relocation. And in the third part the reporter pointed out conflict points which announced by the official, and environmental activist who against the building of the dam.

The news sources of this news seem to lack of “experts” opinions while comparing with other environmental news. Its new sources including local official, Chinese central government, speaker at a government organized conference, state media, vice-mayor of Chongqing, the official and a Chinese writer. Some local official’s name could not be found while in reporting the ecological damage. Like the quotation in the second paragraph that just reported as “according to one local official.”

The reporter is trying to maintain its “objectivity” by simply listing the claims made by three different groups of people: government official, the state media and environmental activist. Firstly, most part of this news was focus in describing the contrasts of views by Wang Xiaofeng, the deputy director of the government’s Three Gorges Project Construction Committee. Mr. Wang’s views are occurred for two times in the article, the first time is in supporting environment protection instead of profit from the economic boom. And the second time is in rebutting the accusation to the Three Gorges Dams Project in causing environmental damage and denied the relocation of extra four million people. The reporter reinforced the contradition of the official claim by inserting the events like landslide and relocation .

In the end, the author is trying to leave the audience to make the judgment about whether the government was concealing the serious environmental problem by asking “who to believe” in the beginning of conclusion. The reporter ended his story by using the words of one Chinese writer, “They’re not truthfully reflecting a serious situation. The government is not being responsible to business of to China”. By this tone, this story is more like representing the voice of anti-dam building.

Overall, this article is a good example in supervising the official “words”, however, it did not present enough link between the events and claims, the concerns over the Three Gorges Dam is not “deep” enough. The reporter just used few words to mention the landslide accident and the relocation which reported by the state media. And the word by a Chinese writer seems not strong enough to rebut the words from the officials.

In addition, the reporter selected four photos in its report, he tried to appeal the audience by the factual image that, the bank s of the Yangtze is being reinforced to prevent landslides and the farmer needs to be relocated. And warming the audience that the environmental catastrophe is happening. And the other two photos seem to have no direct link to this news and used frequently in other BBC news about Three Gorges Dam.

"Banks of the Yangtze are being reinforced to prevent landslides."

It is interesting to notice that more news about Three Gorges Dam could be found in around 2006 and 2007, while less report after 2007. Maybe it is because 2006 is the year when China has completed construction of the main wall of the Three Gorges Dam. And it is a common failing of environmental news reporting that the coverage decreased as the time pass by.

It seems that the debate over Three Gorges Dam is a continuing process. “Deep concern over Three Gorges Dam” is a good example is good at tracking the controversial views offered by the official, while there are more following research could be added to make more informative news. This news is happened in China and reported by a foreign reporter. Environmental news is also social and cultural constructed, state media in China tend to be more debatable when reporting the news about Three Gorges Dam. The proponent praise Three Gorges Dam as it help to reduce the dependence on coal to produce energy to raise 1.3billion population and help to prevent the flood. Even though the author perceived Three Gorges Dam is controversial, it seems that more facts about another side needed to be found in his reporting.

  • Note:
    The news article about Three Gorges Dam in the BBC News website were most written by Michael in Beijing. This article is one of the news by Michael Bristow published on December, 2007. One of the news written by Michael on 2009 titled “Three Gorges water plan postponed” has reported more detailed on landslide fear. And he used Peter Brossard’s word to end his news that "There are smarter ways of generating energy and managing floods than by building outdated mega-projects." But I can’t find further report on “how other smarter ways of generating energy and managing flood” in news.

    Following links are:
    1) “Three Gorges water plan postponed” :

    2) : “China Dams the World”: written by Peter Brossard, who is the policy director of International Rivers, a global environmental organization based in Barkley, California. ( This journal could be found in the World Policy Journal: Volume XXVI, No4, Winter 2009/10 in Bush Memorial Library) Link to a scanned edition as followed:

    Video Link:

    Three Gorges Dam is now in Full Operation (CCTV)

    Patrick McCully in China's Three Gorges Dam Documentary

    China's Three Gorges dam in trouble - 20 Nov 09:

    Chinese three gorges dam project - 9 December 2007