The Political Logic of China's New Environmental Courts

"The Political Logic of China’s New Environmental Courts," The China Journal (July 2014), pp. 53-74

22 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2014

See all articles by Rachel E. Stern

Rachel E. Stern

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Jurisprudence & Social Policy; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: July 15, 2014

Abstract

China boasts over 130 environmental courts opened between 2007 and 2013, a trend that promises to re-shape environmental law. What accounts for the political appeal of specialized justice? Overall, China’s specialized environmental courts are a method for local officials to signal commitment to environmental protection and a forum to defuse potentially explosive disputes. They symbolize the increasing importance placed by China’s leaders on environmental issues, while also offering welcome flexibility. Courts can accept cases when disputes are rising, and turn them away when local power holders are involved and caution appears prudent. Many courts struggle to find enough cases to survive, and even the most active courts do not necessarily tackle China’s most pressing environmental problems. A new analysis shows that the Guiyang court’s docket is dominated by minor criminal cases — crackdowns against powerless rural residents, rather than more ambitious attempts to hold polluters accountable.

Keywords: China, environmental law, environmental courts, green justice

Suggested Citation

Stern, Rachel E., The Political Logic of China's New Environmental Courts (July 15, 2014). "The Political Logic of China’s New Environmental Courts," The China Journal (July 2014), pp. 53-74, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2466534

Rachel E. Stern (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Jurisprudence & Social Policy ( email )

School of Law
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-2150
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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