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Making a Difference?: Social Assessment Policy and Praxis and its Emergence in China

Susanna Price
Kathryn Robinson
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    Making a Difference?
    Book Description:

    Social assessment for projects in China is an important emerging field. This collection of essays - from authors whose formative work has influenced the policies that shape practice in development-affected communities - locates recent Chinese experience of the development of social assessment practices (including in displacement and resettlement) in a historical and comparative perspective. Contributors - social scientists employed by international development banks, national government agencies, and sub-contracting groups - examine projects from a practitioner's perspective. Real-life experiences are presented as case-specific praxis, theoretically informed insight, and pragmatic lessons-learned, grounded in the history of this field of development practice. They reflect on work where economic determinism reigns supreme, yet project failure or success often hinges upon sociopolitical and cultural factors.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-458-8
    Subjects: Business, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. VII-VII)
  4. Preface
    (pp. VIII-XIV)
    Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. XV-XVI)
  6. INTRODUCTION. Making Economic Growth Socially Sustainable?
    (pp. 1-30)
    Susanna Price

    ‘Growth first’ approaches to development theory and practice have social consequences. These consequences may emerge in focal sites for project interventions that generate specific social costs that markets cannot necessarily resolve. Social practitioners in the development domain invoked sociological knowledge and approaches to show how project success often depends upon factors that are initially invisible, overlooked, unquantifiable. Despite contested terms of engagement in development discourse, social practitioners find growing convergence among flourishing ideas for poverty reduction, gender equity, rights, participation and empowerment. This introduction sets out some milestones in this trajectory as a basis for the following chapters.

    China’s development...

  7. Part I. Engaged Social Research in Shifting Development Narratives

    • Introduction to Part I
      (pp. 32-34)
      Susanna Price

      How do social researchers utilize sociological knowledge to craft new approaches to project investments? In chapter 1, entitled ‘Landmarks in Development: The Introduction of Social Analysis’, Michael Cernea relates, with the immediate impact of a first-person account, the pioneering efforts to theorize and secure support for the ‘conceptually path breaking’ World Bank Operational Manual Statement 2.20. Sociological knowledge had been neglected in this economic fortress, even though unquantifiable social factors often determined project failure or success. Cernea explains how he and his colleagues realized that research utilizing sociological knowledge, if conducted in isolation, would be ineffective in shaping development interventions...

    • 1 Landmarks in Development: The Introduction of Social Analysis
      (pp. 35-59)
      Michael M. Cernea

      In November 2012, the State Council of China announced its decision to institute a mandatory assessment of ‘social instability risks’ involved in all of China’s major new industrial projects before such projects are started (Bradsher 2012). The Chinese leadership’s decision reflected a deep concern that social instability risks could lead to political instability. Protests and public incidents directly related to major projects had been taking place for years (about 90,000 incidents in 2006, for instance). TheNew York Timescited Chinese press reports that such risks had caused ‘increasingly violent environment-related protests which forced the suspension or cancellation of chemical...

    • 2 Social Science and the Mining Sector: Contemporary Roles and Dilemmas for Engagement
      (pp. 60-82)
      Deanna Kemp and John R. Owen

      As a powerful driver of development, mining plays a critical role across Asia and the Pacific. The region holds reserves of various key commodities, such as bauxite, copper, iron ore, gold, lead, nickel, zinc and coal. Mining contributes significantly to state revenues and to national infrastructure, while also providing employment, training and business opportunities at the regional, provincial and local levels. In 2011, the Asia Pacific metals and mining industry had total revenues of US$ 1,950.2 billion, representing a compound annual growth rate of 17 per cent between 2007 and 2011 (Datamonitor 2011). Growth is set to continue, with demand...

    • 3 Practising Social Development: Navigating Local Contexts to Benefit Local Communities
      (pp. 83-102)
      Aaron Kyle Dennis and Gregory Eliyu Guldin

      Social development¹ practices are inherently political, value-laden constructs, and practitioners need to keep this in mind to effectively employ our methodological tools for the benefit of local communities. In this chapter we examine how the social development paradigm creates potential benefits and liabilities for different stakeholders and discuss the role of social development practitioners within this context. Our aim is to illuminate the dynamics of social policy and related methodologies to inform future efforts at reforming and revitalizing social development practice.

      International financial institutions, bilateral donors and (increasingly) corporate sponsors require the incorporation of social due diligence in the planning...

    • 4 Striving for Good Practice: Unpacking AusAID’s Approach to Community Development
      (pp. 103-125)
      Kathryn Robinson and Andrew McWilliam

      Community development (CD) as a strategic approach to poverty alleviation has long been popular among bilateral and multilateral donors. The phrase has come to encapsulate a wide range of interventions that direct technical assistance and funding to local communities promoting social development and economic opportunity. CD approaches typically stress participation, consultation and accountability, and their practitioners have adapted to changes in funding agencies’ operating rationales¹ that reflect shifts in global development discourses, national political ideologies and development ‘styles’ (Kenny 2002). Recent CD approaches emphasize demand-driven responses with inclusive participatory interventions to address basic local needs.

      Over recent decades, however, approaches...

    • 5 Seeds of Life: Social Research for Improved Farmer Yields in Timor-Leste
      (pp. 126-142)
      Andrew McWilliam, Modesto Lopes, Diana Glazebrook, Marcelino de Jesus da Costa and Anita Ximenes

      The Seeds of Life project (Fini ba Morisin the Tetun vernacular) is an applied research activity to promote sustained improvements in the production and productivity of staple food crops in Timor-Leste (Borges et al. 2009). A key element of the strategy is the introduction of high-yield seed germplasm to supplement well adapted but often low yielding local varieties. On-farm participatory testing of seed varieties combined with bulk seed multiplication programmes offers an important new opportunity for agriculture in Timor-Leste.

      The second phase of the project (2005–2010) included a social research component that sought to develop a range of...

  8. Part II. Applying Sociological Knowledge in China

    • Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 144-146)
      Susanna Price

      The next chapters highlight contemporary experience in developing and applying social assessment in China specifically. In chapter 6, ‘Social Assessment in China: Progress and Application in Domestic Development Projects’, Li Kaimeng traces the evolution of forms of social assessment, including most recent developments. The government has taken important steps towards a framework for social assessment. Li sets out the challenges that remain to its full implementation. Despite the recent shift in project selection away from growth towards a balance between economic, environmental and social concerns, Li finds that in practice, financial imperatives still largely drive project preparation. The legislative and...

    • 6 Social Assessment in China: Progress and Application in Domestic Development Projects
      (pp. 147-163)
      Li Kaimeng

      Social factors impact upon investment projects’ potential for success and sustainability, whilst investment projects simultaneously induce social impacts, whether slight, medium or severe. Neglecting the needs, preferences and capacities of expected beneficiaries can undermine the objectives of an investment project. Though some projects manage to avoid major social risks, they may also squander opportunities to benefit more people. Some projects cannot gain local support or mobilize local resources because the targeted people are not given a chance to participate fully in the project design. The neglect of social assessment in project design and implementation may result in projects that do...

    • 7 Turning Risks into Opportunities? Social Assessment as Governmental Technologies
      (pp. 164-184)
      Bettina Gransow

      Despite the crucial role of infrastructure projects in China’s development strategy, and despite their far-reaching social impacts on the local populations in their spheres of influence, until now many projects have not included a comprehensive social assessment as part of the usual project management routine. Environmental issues, in contrast, must be addressed in China under the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, effective in 2003, but no similar law requiring social (impact) assessment of infrastructure projects exists in China.¹ Conflicts over land requisition, forced house demolitions, numerous protests and petitions, and extreme reactions, such as project-affected people setting themselves ablaze,² clearly signal...

    • 8 Participatory Monitoring of Development Projects in China
      (pp. 185-200)
      Xiao Jianliang and David Arthur

      China’s regulatory requirements¹ are increasingly aligned with international expectations of public consultation during project impact assessment processes. However, a lack of experience in actual implementation and follow-through, combined with a history of ‘command-and-control’² governance, has presented a challenge to effective public consultation and participation for development projects. Despite this, some successful examples show how civil society can be involved in and beneficially contribute to the implementation of significant infrastructure projects in China. One such example is a major infrastructure development project in the Chongqing municipal area, in which the public participated in the monitoring of environmental and social management through...

    • 9 How Social Assessment Could Improve Conservation Policy and Projects: Cases from Pastoral Management in China
      (pp. 201-212)
      Wang Xiaoyi

      In this chapter, I examine why social factors can cause conservation projects to fail, reflecting on lessons from two cases in Inner Mongolia. I further discuss the importance of social assessment in conservation, recommending the introduction of social assessment in the planning and implementation of conservation policy and projects, especially in areas where vulnerable minorities live. Social assessment could reduce the projects’ negative impacts and allow inclusion of local knowledge to improve project design.

      In the context of China’s rapid economic growth, environmental threats and impacts have been a major cause of social conflicts in rural China (Sun and Zheng...

    • 10 Improving Social Impact Assessment and Participatory Planning to Identify and Manage Involuntary Resettlement Risks in the People’s Republic of China
      (pp. 213-241)
      Scott G. Ferguson and Wenlong Zhu

      Rapid economic development in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has brought widespread, project-induced involuntary resettlement as an important component of many infrastructure and urban redevelopment projects’ implementation. Involuntary resettlement is still, globally, one of the most challenging fields, particularly for emerging economies like the PRC. This chapter provides constructive suggestions for improved management of involuntary resettlement in the PRC – especially the management of social and impoverishment risk – through better application of social impact assessment (SIA). It argues that in the context of resettlement, SIA can focus on the people in the way of project investments, filling a current gap...

    • 11 Stakeholder Participation in Rural Land Acquisition in China: A Case Study of the Resettlement Decision-making Process
      (pp. 242-261)
      Yu Qingnian and Shi Guoqing

      With the rapid socioeconomic development in China, agricultural land is increasingly being set aside for the development of infrastructure such as roads, water resources, industries and mines, in addition to more general urban development. In many such cases, land acquisition and house demolition are unavoidable. In recent years, media attention has focused on the suffering of ‘land-loss’ farmers – those who lose all of their productive land and other assets to investment projects. In some places local governments have exacerbated the suffering by abusing their powers to exploit these farmers’ vulnerability. Recognizing this reality, academics have explored the possibility of reforming...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 262-277)
    Susanna Price

    This conclusion summarizes the legacy of social assessment in relation to peoplecentred development paradigms and practices, based on a range of perspectives from evaluators, researchers and civil society groups. Asking what comes next, given the changing global architecture, it concludes by highlighting the articulation of new discourses in recent initiatives in country regulatory frameworks and corporate self-regulation.

    This book has contended that investment projects may trigger complex social impacts, which go well beyond the usual business risk assessment. But how effective are the ‘texts’ that promote people-centered development paradigms, as they are produced and enacted, or not, through multiple levels...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 278-283)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 284-286)
  12. Index
    (pp. 287-299)