New Rural Reconstruction Movement: a Chinese Movement for Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice

Rowan Alcock [1]



The world is facing multiple environmental crises that demand transformative changes to industrial society on a scale never before seen.[2] The answer to whether global society will be able to achieve the necessary transformation may lie with civil society movements challenging current paradigms. In China this challenge is especially important. This article introduces a Chinese civil society movement – the New Rural Reconstruction Movement (NRRM), a movement that can be seen as challenging mainstream thought about how to construct a socially just and environmentally sound society.


Keywords; China, New Rural Reconstruction, Civil Society, Environment



The Chinese state is argued to be tackling the global environmental crisis through an “ecological modernization paradigm” (Xue, 2016: 606) based on economic growth, stimulation of markets and technological innovation. Although this approach seems to be the position of most countries around the globe it is considered to be unfeasible and “utopian” by numerous academics and commentators (Hickel, 2018; Mathai, Oliveira, & Dale, 2018; Monbiot, 2015; Ward et. al., 2016). Chinese environmental ‘success’ stories reported in the media are often based on this ecological modernization paradigm.[3] However, I argue this hegemonic discourse crowds out other voices on the ground in China that are challenging this narrative. This article introduces a “grassroots” (Si & Scott, 2016) Chinese movement called the New Rural Reconstruction Movement (NRRM), a movement critical of the recent development model of China and one that aims to set up alternative projects to protect the environment and rural life.

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