The past decade has seen remarkable progress made in the field of environmental information disclosure in China. While the overall institutional changes and the motivation/willingness of the government to open up information are important conditions, China’s encounter with revolutionary Information and Communication Technological (ICT) advancement and rapidly emerging big data quickly changed China from an “information poor environment” to an “information complex environment.” While most previous studies centered on those drives/constraints that were recognized in established informational governance framework, recent advancement in ICTs and emerging big data posed new challenges, opportunities and research questions. When increasing information disclosure became a new game changer in environmental governance, China has had to cope with risks and pitfalls in a new technology-empowered information environment as well. This article updated previous studies on legislation/regulations/policies regarding environmental information disclosure in China and their implementation effectiveness, and paid special attention to China’s recent informatization progress and emerging big data. Information disclosure was treated as a process that includes data/information generation/collection, disclosure, functional pathways of communication, and direct/indirect impacts. Changes in environmental information disclosure should be understood in a broader context of overall changing environmental governance and informatization in China. It is important to understand ICTs and information disclosure as a double-edged sword. Normative, substantive, and instrumental benefits of disclosure as well as collection and reporting costs, the issue of targeted transparency, and the risk of unintended use should be strategically considered. Principles and guidelines need to be developed to avoid pitfalls while maximizing benefits.
Frontiers of Law in China – Brill
Published: May 11, 2017
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