DSA2016: Politics in Development
- May Tan-Mullins (University of Nottingham Ningbo China) email
- Frauke Urban (SOAS, University of London) email
- Giuseppina Siciliano (School of Oriental and African Studies) email
This panel looks at the impacts of a rising China on local and global environmental governance. Papers assessing the environmental outcomes of increasing Chinese presence, in various natural resources and energy sectors are welcomed.
This panel looks at China as a rising power and its impacts on global and local environmental governance. China's greater role in the global economy has profound implications for the world. Along with its economic presence in forms of trade, aid and foreign direct investment, China has rapidly magnified its overseas and global environmental footprint. Substantial amount of Chinese investment are concentrated in sectors that are environmentally sensitive such as oil, gas and mineral exploration and hydropower provision. These investment could have both positive and/or negative impacts on the environment, depending on the differential strategies and practices of the Chinese firms and actors.
This panel invites papers that examines the differential environmental implications of Chinese actors and involvement through the lens of political ecology. Power relations between different actors are at the heart of this approach and all actors possess some form of power to control and access resources. By examining these unequal power relations in turn provides a way to explain the uneven distribution of environmental resources and outcomes. Papers investigating the power interplay between Chinese and various actors at the different levels and scale, and how it determines the use of the environment and natural resources are most welcome. In addition, this panel invites papers which contribute to the expansion of the political ecology theoretical approach in the context of a rising power.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Navigating Institutional Constraints: How Local Cadres Deal with Water Scarcity in Yunnan
Despite being known as ‘China’s water tower’, Yunnan regularly faces severe droughts. This paper deals with the question as to why, despite Beijing’s efforts during recent years to improve water conservancy, Yunnan’s water resources are becoming increasingly scarce.
Despite being known as 'China's water tower', Yunnan frequently faces severe droughts, which puts pressure on local communities and state actors alike. This paper deals with the question as to why, despite Beijing's efforts during recent years to improve water conservancy all over the country, Yunnan's water resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Drawing on theories of the local state in China, analyses are carried out on the water management strategies in different localities in Yunnan. Findings obtained from field research in four counties with different levels of economic development and water resource endowments show that current institutional arrangements - including those regulating local cadre performance and the process of applying for project funding from higher level governments - take away power over resource governance from local cadres, thereby limiting their room to maneuver. Instead of easing the burdens placed on water scarce regions, China's new focus on water governance reinforces the existing social and economic disparities.
Hydropower conflicts in the resource frontier: how local communities resist Chinese hydropower projects
The paper analyses contestation over Chinese-invested dams in the Mekong basin, using concepts of the resource frontier, critical regionalism and alternative regionalism to focus on the agency of local communities to safeguard local ecosystems which are integral to their livelihoods.
The stylisation of Laos, Cambodia and other developing countries as "resource frontier" countries has brought into focus the increasingly fierce battle between local communities, national governments and multinational financiers and construction companies over large hydropower dams. In Chinese-invested hydropower projects, local communities resisting such projects face a complex multi-level structure composed of Chinese construction companies and financiers, national governments, and local governments pushing large hydropower dams for national economic development justified by a global clean energy discourse.
This discourse has seen the creation of global institutions, most significantly the Kyoto Protocol under whose CDM mechanisms large hydropower projects can be registered. Conversely, local communities face loss of their livelihoods through the destruction of local socio-natural systems. The consequence are scalar trade-offs, competing development goals, and conflicting environmental protection goals between global, national and local scales.
The paper analyses the processes of contestation around Chinese-invested dams in the Mekong basin, using the political ecology concept of the resource frontier in combination with the concepts of critical regionalism and alternative regionalism. This allows an analytical focus on the agency of local communities and their resistance strategies in an attempt to safeguard local ecosystems which are integral to their livelihoods.
China came, China built, China left?: The Sarawakian experience with Chinese dam building.
The work of Sinohydro at Bakun displaced 15 longhouses and flooded tropical rainforests. The dendritic lake means varied access of the communities’ ancestral lands. Sinohydro managed to isolate itself from indigenous communities, such they are forgotten in local debates on displacement compensation.
China's entered the Sarawakian hydropower scene in a big way, with their first project being the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam, the crown jewel of the state's development scheme, SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy). By constructing this massive 2,400MW dam, Sinohydro directly contributed to the displacement of 10,000 indigenous people, the flooding of 700 sqkm of tropical rainforests in one of the most biodiverse biomes in the world, and the fragmentation of formerly productive fisheries. Bakun Lake also suffers from massive logjams as a result of the fluctuations of the lake levels. The formation of the elongated dendritic lake means that different communities have differential access to their ancestral lands, from an hour, to a whole day and 400L of petrol. resulting in various degrees of exploitation of resources depending of travelling time.
Sinohydro employed almost no indigenous help, preferring to import Chinese construction workers. This results in an isolation of the Chinese company from the displaced communities. Prior to their pulling out of the project, Hydro Tasmania and Rio Tinto Alcan had been working with the communities to provide resettlement assistance, through consultations of the rebuilding of the new longhouses, for example. On the other hand, Sinohydro did not involve themselves with the resettlement process, nor did they help with the environmental mitigation process. This isolation is to such an extent that during informal interviews, many of the local indigenous people were aware of Australian help, blamed their government for the resettlement troubles but the lack of Chinese involvement in their compensation programs did not seem to strike them.
The political ecology of China's policy on international wildlife trade from Africa
The paper investigates recent Chinese efforts to redefine its policies on international wildlife trade from Africa. It explores how China navigates the complicated international power relations surrounding the issue and how it balances bilateral and multilateral expectations.
As a major destination for African wildlife products China is a crucial actor with the potential of influencing global discourses and policies on the issue of international wildlife trade from Africa. In response to rising global expectations China has assumed a markedly more active and nuanced role on the issue in recent years. The paper investigates how China navigates the complicated international power relations surrounding the issue of international wildlife trade from Africa and how China balances norms and obligations that emanate from both the bilateral and the multilateral level. Interestingly, China's efforts to redefine its policies involve principles that go to the core of its identity as a rising power, such as commitment to sovereignty over national resources and the addressing of structural global inequalities, but also the promotion of multilateral cooperation and of a role as a responsible great power.
Chinese overseas oil investments and African growth: Motives, mechanisms and outcomes
This paper looks at African agency in negotiating deals with Chinese investors and aid.
After decades of being regarded as 'basket cases' some African economies are experiencing growth rates that are among the fastest in the world. Much of this growth is based on the export of commodities, like oil, to China and other emerging economies. Driving this export trade is Chinese national oil companies' (NOCs) growing involvement in African countries' oil sectors. While we hypothesise that the Chinese do things 'differently' to other oil investors in Africa we do not know whether the different corporate strategies of the leading Chinese NOCs and the specificities of African political economies they engage with generates unique forms of development, and if so in whose interests? The paper sets out an analytical framework for assessing these outcomes and argues that there is no single business or partnership model defining the modus operandi of Chinese NOCs in Africa. We challenge the discourse in which China and African actors are treated as monolithic units, and view the relationship between them as mutually driven. We track the historical and institutional evolution of Chinese energy firms, their internationalisation motives and strategies, and how the nature and success of their engagement in Africa's energy sector is influenced by the specificities of the political contexts of their host nations.
Chinese Geothermal Financing to Kenya: Stakeholders Analysis on Aid Coordination and the Environmental Implications
This paper explores on the stakeholders in Chinese ODF to Kenya's geothermal sector, especially the relations between China and other donors in the scope of aid coordination, and its impact onto the environment.
Scholars have paid respectable attention to the significant role of China's Official Development Finance (ODF) and its environmental and social impacts on the ground. Yet scant empirical research analyzes the relations of China and other donors in a recipient country and its environmental implications. This paper explores on the stakeholders in Chinese ODF to Kenya's geothermal sector, especially the relations between China and other donors in the scope of aid coordination, and its impact onto the environment.
The paper chooses Kenya as a country case, mainly for twofold reasons: 1) one of the top three ODF recipients in Africa; 2) the top leader in exploring geothermal power in Africa.
The paper firstly presents the context of aid coordination and the absence of China, the renewable energy financing in Africa and the role of China, and the geothermal financing. Secondly, the analytical framework is illustrated. Thirdly, the case study construes the state of the art of aid coordination structure in Kenya, including the key stakeholders and the ODF modalities of donors, including but not exclusively, on their environmental standards. Fourthly, further discussion is on the environmental implications by the complex blending of multi-stakeholders and their ODF modalities in Kenya's geothermal sector.
The paper contributes to this field of research mainly on two aspects: 1) presenting the current aid coordination structure in Kenya; 2) exploring environmental impacts caused by donors in renewable energy sector.
Capturing the Rains: A Comparative Study of Chinese and World Bank financed hydro-projects in Cameroon
This paper uses a comparative case study of a World Bank and a China Eximbank financed hydropower dam in Cameroon to evaluate the involvement and influence of Western vs. Chinese finance in the institutional design, implementation and impact mitigation of these infrastructure projects.
As a consequence of the "Going Global" policies, China is becoming an omnipresent player in infrastructure construction across the world, particularly in developing economies in Africa and Asia, where infrastructure deficits have become a key bottleneck to economic growth and investment. Hydropower is one area in which Chinese financial resources and its domestic expertise could make significant contributions to a number of African states in terms of their energy security and water management. However many of China's hydropower projects remain controversial both domestically and overseas, due to their social and environmental impacts, and perceived lack of transparency surrounding negotiations and contracting.
This paper uses a process-tracing methodology using fieldwork and stakeholder interviews to compare two partially-complete hydropower projects in Cameroon, financed and constructed in the last 5 years: one financed by China Eximbank, the other financed by a multilateral consortium led by the World Bank. After a retreat from major infrastructure projects in the 1990s, the number of World Bank financed dams has also risen dramatically in the late 2000s. The single country case study affords an opportunity to comparatively evaluate the projects' tendering, approval and implementation processes by the Cameroonian government, with respect to the two sets of financiers, and examine how the different financing structures have influenced implementation and approaches to environmental and social impacts and mitigation. It offers an insight into Chinese practices around infrastructure project financing, planning, and assessment standards, as well as that of the World Bank, as a re-emerging donor in the field of hydropower.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.