This article approaches environmental protest in China as a failure in cooperative common pool resource management and engages with the institutional design principles developed by Elinor Ostrom to identify underlying institutional causes. The results show that, at the constitutional choice level, the fundamental ideology, and political institutions of China do not support a nested environmental governance system that involves non-governmental powers. At the collective-choice level, the monitoring and graduated sanctions systems suffer from unaccountable local officials, opaque information, lax law enforcement, and the rising but still restricted role of non-governmental organizations and media. At the operational level, low-quality and even fraudulent environmental impact assessments do not clearly define boundaries for resources and users, which prevents the evolution of congruent rules and neglects the stakes the public may have in a project. The options to reform the existing institutions are then considered in light of China’s constitutional and institutional tradition.

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Journal of Chinese Governance

Liu, L., & de Jong, M. (2017). The institutional causes of environmental protests in China: a perspective from common pool resource management. Journal of Chinese Governance, 2(4), 460–477. doi:10.1080/23812346.2017.1354432