China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Asia is at the center of a burgeoning debate on authoritarian environmentalisms. While many had assumed democratic accountability to be the keystone of environmental reform, authoritarian governments are making forceful efforts to protect and rehabilitate environments. Yet this discussion remains couched in general contrasts between authoritarian and liberal environmental governance, and between command-and-control and market-based intervention. Such generalizations gloss over the varied ways authoritarian environmental governance plays out. Different polities take different approaches, and within a given country, practices vary across contexts. We aim to unpack environmental authoritarianism in Asia. Papers draw on varying contexts, examining how these different situations draw state agents to approach people and landscapes differently. They span China’s deployment of coercive governmental techniques in managing borderlands (Shapiro), big data infrastructures intended to underpin global environmental ambitions in the Belt and Road Initiative (Li), how norms of authoritarian environmental governance in Vietnam shift amid ongoing engagement with international stakeholders (Casse), and a bottom-up view of political and environmental efficacy in Vietnam (Bruun). With perspectives from sociology, anthropology, and international relations and cases from China and Vietnam, these papers move toward a systematic characterization of varieties of authoritarian environmental governance, showing how national, sociopolitical, and environmental conditions generate varied interventions. In a twist on usual panel formats, we will begin with synthetic comments from the discussant and sustain conversation with attendees throughout the panel.