The Authoritarian Logic of Regulatory Pluralism: Understanding China's New Environmental Actors


Over the last decade, Chinese citizens, NGOs, judges and prosecutors have started to take action against industrial pollution, pluralizing the regulatory landscape originally occupied by administrative agencies. Regulatory pluralism here has an authoritarian logic, occurring without the retreat of party-state control. Under such logic, the party-state both needs and fears new actors for their positive and negative roles in controlling risk and maintaining stability. Consequently, the regime’s relation to regulatory pluralism is ambivalent, shifting between support and restriction. This prevents a development of a regulatory society that could bypass the regulatory state. Theoretically, this paper argues for a subjective definition of regulation in a context of pluralism. Moreover, it finds that regulatory pluralism need not coincide with a decentring of regulation. Finally, it highlights how entry onto the regulatory landscape affects the non-regulatory roles of new actors, creating unintended consequences for regulatory pluralism.

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