Tan, Jiaxin: Industrial Water Pollution in Dongying City, the Yellow River Delta of China : Communication Interfaces between Government Agencies and the Local Population. - Bonn, 2020. - Dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.
Online-Ausgabe in bonndoc: https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:hbz:5-57491
urn: https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:hbz:5-57491,
author = {{Jiaxin Tan}},
title = {Industrial Water Pollution in Dongying City, the Yellow River Delta of China : Communication Interfaces between Government Agencies and the Local Population},
school = {Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn},
year = 2020,
month = jul,

note = {While China undergone a rapid move from agriculture-based economies to industry production, the extraordinary intensity of economic and social changes triggered environmental problems. Industrial water pollution is particularly problematic due to its negative impact on health and the natural environment. With increasing environmental awareness of Chinese citizens, taking responsive action and building mutual dialogue with the local society are imperative for the government. This research proposes an analytical lens of communication interface to explore the emergence of industrial water pollution, as well as its social and political responses in Dongying City, the Yellow River Delta of China. The research examines the daily routines and implementation practices of the local water bureaucracy for pollution control. Drawn upon the empirical studies in the communities, the research also presents an analysis of people’s perception and knowledge about pollution. Theoretically, the analytical lens of communication interface is drawn upon ideas from Long’s (1989) interface analysis and Bateson’s (1951) philosophy of “metacommunication”. Embedding communication interfaces in the wider power structure and informed by Foucault’s (2000) study, the research embraces the ambition to detect patterns in complexity, as well as the dynamic and multi-layered character of China’s environmental management.
Qualitative methods such as interviews, participation, Participatory Rapid Appraisal were adopted to investigate individual lived experience of local actors. Quantitative data collection based on a survey (N=110) was applied to investigate information access and people’s demand for information in relation to their livelihood concerns. Reviews of policies, laws and local planning helped to generate a more sophisticated understanding on the industrial development in the Yellow River Delta. Information derived from media portrayals, online discussion forums, documentary films provided a rich source of material to trace the public debate on China’s environmental management.
Findings show thatlarge-scale technocratic interventions to mitigate industrial pollution have increased in Dongying. Action to enlarge the scope of public participation in environmental management, however, was far from effective. Through the illustrative example of the China Water Week campaign, it is argued that incoherent messages across different levels of the bureaucracy, as well as that the interrupted mutualflow of information between water administrators and local people hindered public participation in the water campaign. With reference to the mixed signals deployed by government authorities to local environmental activists, findings elucidate that the bureaucratic awareness of keeping situations under control is prevalent in minds of local cadres. This was attempted through the daily routines of taking preventive measures for avoiding omission and staying safe in their comfort zones, rather than getting things done to respond to people’s request on water-relevant issues.
In examining the processes of communication and interaction between government agencies and local actors, two situations (a) the virtual interface performing at the community level and (b) the non-virtual interface upheld via environmental activism were explored. Through the empirical studies in the communities, limited agency of local people, a lack of feedback channels and low support from brokerage were found to be key characteristics embedded in the virtual communication interface. Through the study of environmental activism, the research documented the trajectory of non-virtual communication interface. Probing into the strategy of incremental change adopted by activists to expand the boundary of negotiation with cadres, it shed light on the micro politics of choices as well as on officials’ strategies of making room for manoeuvre. Beyond environmental activism in Dongying, the research explored the environmental initiatives promoted by one provincial environmental non-governmental organization (NGO). The NGO achieved a high performance of communication interface (managed to build mutual dialogue with top official from the province) via the strategy of promoting digital tools and information disclosure to the authorities. However, findings reveal that the “give-and-take” approach taken by the NGO leaves largely untouched the asymmetry of flows of information between government agencies, the general public and environmental NGOs.In relation to the debate on promoting digital sphere for environmental governance, whereas the approach was embraced by provincial authorities, finding shows that the local implementation still stuck in mud due to institutional deficiencies, resource limitations as well as low digital competencies of local cadres.
Detecting the virtual and non-virtual communication interfaces in this research, it showed that information access and the availability of mutually-communicative channels are significant to reduce the communication barriers. Results of the survey pointed out that mass media is the main information access in local communities. The application of the digital tools for accessing environmental information, however, is still far from full. The issue of drinking water quality is perceived most concerned. Oral talks with relatives, friends, and colleagues provide the main source of information on drinking water quality. In relation to people’s livelihood concerns, self-relevance (e.g. information about education for children, health care, medical insurance) and economic value (e.g. information about rural policies, economic development programs) are found to be important attributes of information perceived interesting by informants.
To underline the agency of actors, the research proposed an underlying causality mechanism which sketches a dynamic recruitment process of people’s coping strategies toward industrial water pollution. This mechanism highlights the causal linkage of communication, flow of information, perception and coping. To specify this, findings reveal that communication and information exchange shape people’s perception and knowledge about pollution, thereby enabling them to interpret the issue and to develop a capacity to act upon it. Combining qualitative and quantitative data analysis, findings also demonstrated that people developed reflexive strategies to tackle environmental pollution, not through negating or resisting, but rather through accepting and– critically – re-appropriating it. This pinpoints the subtle meaning of coping in relation to power practices of local people.
Whereas interface analysis in this research helped to map relational structures associated with episodes of environmental governance, the communication prism documented the claims and tracked the signalling mechanisms. To promote an inclusive approach to environmental governance, the co-constituting character between fractal and connective tissue – two key constituents of the analytical framework – offers practical implications to incorporate local perspective and their cultural practices into environmental management. In sum, integrating the lens of communication interface and the proposed analytical framework, the study redraws the contour of state-society relation by shedding a new light on the dynamic, fluid and multi-layered character of China’s environmental governance. The focus of the domains of government agencies and local communities sensitizes the discrepant social interest, value and meaning, knowledge and power between the two. To base growth on accelerated prevention of pollution, it is important for decision makers and (or) practitioners to communicate the vision together with local communities who depend on the water resources on a daily basis, rather than talking about them. Stronger efforts to engage local people in dialogue, knowledge exchange and joint learning would be significant and meaningful. While the digital sphere is expanding fast for environmental governance in China, this research shows that it might take time for local people to accept and apply the digital tools for accessing environmental information. Thereby, cultivating mutually-communicative channels and utilising traditional media such as face-to-face talks in communities, might provide more effective services of informing people about water problems.},

url = {http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11811/8440}

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