Theoretical Analysis on Chinese Public's Participation in Environmental Matters - Institutionalization Approach

By Meng, Tang; Jingxiao, Guan | Cross - Cultural Communication, November 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Theoretical Analysis on Chinese Public's Participation in Environmental Matters - Institutionalization Approach


Meng, Tang, Jingxiao, Guan, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract

How does the public participate in environment matters to influence decisions that affect their own environment? There are two existing theories supporting the public's participation in environment matters. However, they emphasize the certainty of the public's participation in environment matters. The real problems that the public facing during their participation in environment matters and their practical needs lack of resolutions and responses. The way to figure out these problems is to put forward theoretical framework for the public's participation in environment matters so that to set up an interactive environment law system that can reflect action subjects' initiatives.

Key Words: Public participation; Certainty; Institutionalization

Environment issues have always been accompanying with human society's development. Environment issues are comprehensive which concern various aspects of our society. With the rapid development of Chinese economic, our surrounding environment is becoming worse when we enjoy the excitement brought by economic development. At the same time, people have been caring more about their living environment than before. What can people do when face environmental deterioration and increasing numbers of environment problems? In what degree can people take control of their living environment? Do we have influence power on environment decisions as an individual? In which condition can the influence work? And to what degree?

Public participation in environment matters refers to actions that made by ordinary people (individuals or groups) apart from government to obtain favorable results via various kinds of means to attend or influence government's administrative activities. This kind of "actions" is formed by interactivity between the public and the government under certain changes of conditions and restrictions. The core issue of this paper is to give a primary theory framework for the rationale of by which means can the public influence their own environment during the participation process in environment matters and the theory basis of this means.

1. PREVIOUS THEORIES ON THE PUBLIC'S PARTICIPATION IN ENVIRONMENT MATTERS

Concluded from previous researches, we found that most scholars made their researches from the following two theoretical views, that is to say, the jurisprudential basis for supporting public participation in environment matters are of two types: 1) democracy theory; 2) related laws and regulations. We think that research results concluded by those researchers are most "certainty" explanations for the two point of views and they mainly focus on the significance, necessity, and benefits and value for the public in participating environment matters. Although we agree with those researchers, for us, these theories or views are merely "presupposed theories" in the public's participation in environment matters. They hardly or never give further evidence in proving their theories. Therefore, we briefly discuss the two views in this paper and also provide proofs for our understandings and reasons.

1.1 Democracy Theory of the Public's Participation in Environment Matters

Mark E. Kane gave in his paper "The American Environment Democracy" that "democracy is an influential theory"; "the people and organ of power should united together to make common decisions jointly on public life. People should take part in the process of evaluating aims and values that regulate public interests; make political and social organizations use their group power to guarantee public interests. This type of democracy is an idea that people should have equal freedom and influence on evaluating and fighting for public interest." Some people also think "environment democracy means interactivity between nature and society which should be influenced by regulating activities made by executing power or people who obtain public interests"; "environment democracy is an idea grown out of American traditions. …

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