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Alex Wang – Symbolic Legitimacy and Chinese Environmental Reform
February 25, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Alex Wang, UCLA
At the heart of debates over Chinese rule of law is the question of state legitimacy. Critics argue that legitimacy requires liberal democratic rule of law. Chinese leaders have long relied on performance legitimacy – economic development and maintenance of social stability – as the core basis of their rule. Western scholarship on modern Chinese law and politics has, to a significant degree, critiqued the ability of China’s current institutions to perform as claimed.
But apart from any actual results that Chinese governance may generate, the entire project of governance reform can be structured in a way that influences public impressions of state legitimacy. The process of reform is not only about attaining performance goals, but is itself a kind of performance. This act of “performing performance” also signals competence, commitment to the people, tradition, nationalist strength, and a host of other positive values to citizens and other audiences.
This talk explores the symbolic aspects of Chinese environmental reform and potential implications, drawing on case studies in air pollution, climate change, and China’s Belt & Road Initiative.
Alex Wang is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, and a leading expert on environmental law and the law and politics of China. His research focuses on the social effects of law, and the interaction of law and institutions in China and the United States. His previous research has examined, among other things, the institutional design of environmental law and policy, environmental bureaucracy, public interest litigation, information disclosure, and environmental courts. His work has addressed air pollution, climate change, and other environmental issues.
This event is co-sponsored by the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.