SET Seminar Series

Thursday 6 February 2020

“Residents’ Committees as Regulatory Intermediaries: From Compliance to Participation in Shanghai’s Recycling Regulations

Abstract:This paper explores the role of Shanghai’s residents’ committees (RCs) in the city’s new recycling regulations, operating at the street level between the Chinese government, who set rules on recycling, and the city’s residents, who must adopt the rules. We show how RCs employ a variety of methods to facilitate not only passive compliance, but also active participation, the most important of which are derived from the existence of close-knit social networks in Shanghai’s housing estates, which we term ‘social power’. The article contributes to three debates in the field of regulatory governance. First, our deployment of the RIT framework shows that theories of regulatory governance developed in democratic contexts can be employed to analyse governance in non-democracies. Second, we demonstrate the importance of delegated governance in Shanghai, which challenges assumptions of coercion in authoritarian governance. Third, we highlight the importance of culture in

ensuring compliance and generating participation.

About the Speaker: Catherine Owen is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter. She is currently writing a monograph that explores the expansion of local civic participatory mechanisms in St Petersburg and Shanghai. Prior to her award, she was Lecturer in the Department of History and Civilization at Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China. Owen has held Visiting Fellowships at the European University at St Petersburg, Fudan University Shanghai, the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki. Her research has been published in a variety of Area Studies, Comparative Politics and International Relations journals, including Slavic Review, Government and Opposition, Review of International Studies and Third World Quarterly.