To see China in a grain of genetically modified rice : a case study on the governance of agricultural biotechnology in China
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Embargo end date00//2/31/1
This thesis examines the development and changing practices of governance in China by example of the evolution of policy development in agricultural biotechnology (especially in the case of genetically modified rice). In particular, the process of negotiation between the central government, scientific community, NGOs and the media are brought up to investigate the paradigmatic change in China's development that has been taking place over the last three decades of reform. By drawing on an STS perspective in tandem with social theories, it is argued that the governance of agri-biotech in China could be seen as a process of defining and redefining collective action problems by a widening range of policy actors. This approach is of special pertinence in studying China since its 'techno-nationalist' milieu and complicated and often inconsistent policy process seem to defy the concept of governance. The thesis traces the historical policy development over the governance of agri-biotech in China, and provides a panoramic view on how an increasing number of agents have participated in the process and thereby shaped the collective policy problem. National agri-biotech policy has developed in four distinct phases: an initial phase, marked by technological optimism and lack of regulation; a second, 'the millennium policy‘, distinguished by international pressure from WTO and the Cartagena Protocol; the third phase when scandals of GM rice leakage mobilised widespread public opposition to challenge the current expert policy system; the last stage of intensive policy development occurred since 2008 when global food crises led to the re-evaluation of the collective problem in terms of food security. The China story is not a mere repetition of the European experience in regards to GMO regulation, in that China is still a developing country caught between international forces of trade liberalisation and global biosafety governance, a conflict that is currently complicated in the transatlantic disputes over GMOs. The current policy ambivalence of China is under great pressure to solidify into solutions that can both protect local biodiversity and stand the challenge from international GMO trade. Finally, the opaque nature of China's political culture compromises the efficacy of policy intervention from below, making the policy negotiations an interesting test ground for the possibility of governance from below in the budding prospect of democratisation in China.