The Bureaucracy and the Construction of Risk in China

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Kang LI , Sociology, Shanghai Universtiy, Shanghai, China
There were three large-loss fires ignited by exterior-wall insulating materials which made the fire risk of insulating materials a hot topic in the past three years in China. And meanwhile public policies which limited the combustibility of the insulating materials caused a considerable controversy among Housing and the City and Countryside ministry of construction, Bureau of Fire in the Ministry of Public Security and enterprises specializing in insulating materials. Finally, it was the State Council of China that calmed the things down.

This paper is based on a qualitative research mentioned above, which attempts to elaborates the logics of the bureaucracies of China in the process of construction and governance of risk. It shows how the fire risk assessment standards vary across government interventions which lead to the risk conflict first and then risk consensus among the three stakeholders mentioned above. From this research, we can get some conclusions. First, the relations of defining risk depend on the power structure in the bureaucracy, especially when the departments of it involved. Second, the risk is divided with the segmentations of bureaucracy which all try their best to shift their responsibility, and this leads to the “organized irresponsibility” which seems to be a classic paradox in Chinese politics. Third, although the fire risk of the exterior-wall insulating materials is closely related with the public’s benefit and safety, it’s still a topic existing only in the government and enterprises, not a covered field for the public, which proves that the sub-politics Ulrich Beck expects have not happened in China.