The social and environmental impact of rapid rural industrialisation: Local regulation in Zhejiang Province

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Skinner, Mark William
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University of Guelph

Since 1978, the breadth and rapidity of rural industrialisation has been one of the distinguishing features of China's phenomenal economic growth. This rapid development has resulted in significant economic, social, and environmental change. However, relatively little research has been directed towards the relationship between the changing role of local governments, which has itself been subject to considerable restructuring, and the nature and extent of the social and environmental impacts of rapid economic growth. This thesis investigates the manifestation of social and environmental change at the local level in Zhejiang Province. In particular, it considers the changing role of local government in the regulatory process, and features a case study of Huzhou Municipality. Through the synthesis of the factual knowledge and perceptions of 48 key-informants from government offices, public institutions, and rural industries with secondary data sources, the changing nature of local regulation with respect to health care and education, agricultural land protection, and water pollution prevention and control in Zhejiang Province is analysed critically. This reveals three emergent themes that characterise local regulation: the changing locus of regulation; the expansion of the private sector; and, of particular significance, the increasing role of local governments. The latter have become arguably the most important entities in the local regulatory process.

rapid rural industralisation, social impact, environmental impact, local regulation, Zhejiang Province