The idea of 'the commons' is a long-standing concept in the English-speaking world and in English law. A similar concept occurs in China. How different from or similar to the English idea of ‘the commons’ is the idea in China; and how is the concept applied? This book explores this important subject. It examines the subject from a philosophical and theoretical perspective; considers ‘the commons’ widely, including tangible commons of resources, intangible commons of culture, identity and social capital, and institutional commons of welfare, security and public goods; and goes on to examine the concept as it applies to the hydropower developments along the Lancang River, outlining the different competing interests of local people, central and provincial government, and environmental considerations. It argues that the concept of ‘the commons’ in China is dual-dimensional, with a vertical dimension of ‘public authority’ and a horizontal dimension of ‘commonly sharing’, that power structures in China have often been flexible and polycentric, and that, correctly applied, this approach will do much to serve the common interest of the people, ensuring positive impacts for shared prosperity for multiple stakeholders, whilst mitigating the negative impacts involved in the delivery of such positive impacts.
Table of Contents
Introduction: seeing in the commons
PART I: Theoretical framework
1 Commons: origin, theory and dilemma
1.1 Philosophical origins of the commons
1.2 School I: tangible commons – physical resources
1.3 School II: institutional commons – welfare, security and public goods
1.4 School III: intangible commons – culture, identity and social capital
1.5 Conclusion: integrated commons
2 Understanding the concept of the commons in China
2.1 What does the commons mean in China?
2.2 Cultural perspectives
2.3 Bureaucracy and the state
2.4 The Commons in history
3 Crossing the divide
3.1 Is China a unique case?
3.2 Unity, diversity and hope
3.3 Conclusion vi
PART II: Empirical evidence from the Lancang River
4 Hydropower: saint or sinner?
4.2 Hydropower development overview
4.3 Anti- dam challenges
4.4 Conclusion: is prosperity without growth possible?
5 Water and the great transformation of China
5.1 Water in China
5.2 The great transformation of China
5.3 Policy and reform
6 A portrait of the locality along the Lancang Valley
6.1 Institutional framework
6.2 Intangible nexus
7 The story of HydroLancang
7.1 Electricity and economic development
7.2 Environment and the ecosystem
7.4 Corporate social responsibilities
Conclusion: governing tianxia by the common spirit: the Grand Union
Yan Zhang is a Research Associate of Chinese Development at the University of Cambridge, UK, where she completed her Master of Philosophy and doctorate.