Organizing conservation and development in China

Zinda, J. A. (2013). Organizing conservation and development in china: Politics, institutions, biodiversity, and livelihoods. (Order No. 3591054, The University of Wisconsin – Madison). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 335. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1433306129?accountid=16266. (1433306129). Preview (format PDF)

Tourism is an increasingly central element of biodiversity conservation, transforming protected areas worldwide. Building on participant observation and interviews with a broad array of participants, extensive document analysis, and a household survey, this dissertation investigates the creation of national parks in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan and what it reveals about how actors contend to get their visions for tourism and conservation incorporated in protected area institutions as well as how those institutions influence conservation practices and rural livelihoods.

In the first half, I show how contention among state agencies with varied connections to extra-state actors has shaped Yunnan’s national parks. The Nature Conservancy’s limited ability to appeal to state bodies with leverage over protected areas constrained its effort to promote a new conservation model. Local governments have shifted from supporting community-centered tourism to consolidating high-volume attractions under state-affiliated companies. A case comparison of nine protected areas shows that local authorities channel the substantial revenues tourism yields toward funding government activities and maintaining scenic façades for tourists rather than intensive biodiversity conservation. Where strong conservation practices are adopted, it is due to intervention under central government priorities.

In the second half, I examine how national park institutions affect community residents. In Meili Snow Mountain National Park, community-centered tourism operations persist, while in Pudacuo National Park, residents have become park employees. Residents of each park express concerns about different issues, but they voice these concerns in similar terms, invoking moral economies of appropriate state action. I use household survey data and qualitative observations to examine the impacts of different forms of tourism participation on livelihoods and community dynamics. Different tourism activities’ demands for labor and inputs have stronger impacts than income on resource use. Not all community-based tourism is equal: income inequality is higher and cooperation less common where household entrepreneurship predominates, compared to communities where institutions equalize participation, whether under community management or as park employees. The consolidation of protected area tourism attractions brings challenges as park authorities attempt to manage residents, while its economic and environmental impacts have complex relationships with local economies and ecologies.


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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