State infrastructural power through scalar practices: On China’s decarbonization endeavors

Wenying Fu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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To offer a fresh angle on the state capacity to advance decarbonization, this article brings into dialog political economies of scale and the Mannian notion of state infrastructural power, animating this conceptual cross-fertilization with an analysis of China’s evolving policy framework for decarbonization. This article begins with building the conceptual construct of scalar practice as a source of state infrastructural power and categorizing three key scalar practices, namely, interscalar rearranging, interregional reshuffling, and urban‒rural scalar mixing. Building upon this, the article critically evaluates China’s policy framework and state actions against the notion of infrastructural power: the Chinese state applies noncoercive means to elicit support, extract resources, and coordinate actions while transitioning to decarbonization-driven accumulation regimes, and these noncoercive means are mobilized together with coercive means through the art of scalar structuration that (re)defines central–local, urban‒rural, and interregional relations. Overall, this study elucidates how state-orchestrated processes of (re)territorialization for the decarbonization agenda give rise to the expansion of the state’s autonomous power in relation to civil society, albeit in a manner that manifests contested power struggle and conflicting internal logics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)784-801
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number3
Early online date12 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

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