How Do Chinese Grassroots NGOs Fight Local Pollution? An Organizational Perspective

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2020-05-06

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In recent years, the Chinese government started to encourage more stakeholders to participate in the environmental protection field. However, little information told us what role grassroots non-governmental organizations (GNGOs) can play in the environmental protection field. In this study, the development history of two GNGOs were traced in parallel. The two GNGOs were both established by environmental journalists who wished to mitigate local pollution. However, the development history of the two GNGOs were totally different. I found that two external factors could explain this difference: government’s different willingness on pollution mitigation and the severity of the pollution. In order to mitigate the local pollution, both of the two GNGOs reached out to different stakeholders, especially government agencies, for cooperation. For the government, this cooperation is beneficial to fulfill their environmental protection responsibility. For the two GNGOs, the cooperation is a stable source of legitimacy, which is critical for GNGO’s survival when they worked on pollution mitigation, a relatively controversial field in China. The cooperation, however, strongly depends on founder’s personal relationship with different stakeholders. This dependency brought both of the two GNGOs into the trap of elite governance.

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