Alashan SEE Ecological Association, Chinese entrepreneurs, actors, institutions, environment,
conservation, state-society relations.
This article illustrates a case study of corporate action as a response to China’s environmental crisis. There are few
academics that would look at Chinese businesses as a starting point for improving human-environment relations.
The dominant discourse focuses either on top-down policy implementation from a state perspective, or bottom-up
movements through NGOs and society stakeholders. The role of private companies and entrepreneurs, in both
Chinese and western economic and governance theory, is often reduced to mere “takers” of institutions, reluctantly
giving in to pressure from lawmakers or civil society groups, rather than being active “makers” of institutional
solutions to environmental problems. This paper examines the example of the Alashan SEE Foundation, an
organization of Chinese entrepreneurs, with the dual aims of promoting ecological conservation in China’s Alashan
region and supporting Chinese environmental grassroots NGOs all over the country. By drawing from their
example the author tries to draw attention to the role of Chinese private companies and their important role as
actors in environmental institution-building.