Annual Convention of the International Studies Association location:Chicago, USA date:28 February - 3 March 2007
Environmental degradation and environmental incidents or accidents in China have been frequent headlines in the last several years. Chemical spills, air pollution, lacking waste management, etc. have been treated as signs of the externalities of China’s booming economy. Recent theoretical frameworks that link globalization theories to environmental issues are permitting to conceptualize environmental accidents in China as global accidents. ‘Global’ foremost, because the production chains and consumptive habits that are the root causes or driving forces behind degradation and accidents are increasingly global in nature. But also, and more innovative as perspective, ‘global’ because of their conceptualization in the ICT sphere of the global network society.
In this paper we will discuss the highly publicized benzene spill in Jilin of November 2005 as a chemical accident in the information age (referring to Castells’ theory of the Informational Society). The political dynamics of the accidents are unlike any other that China has seen before because of this. We put forward the point of view that the fall out in terms of state-civil society relations in this case are becoming the norm in a globalized China and will potentially be the trigger to change China’s political system.