Second Commons Workshop in China, Tsinghua University

The 2018 Commons Workshop in China was successfully held on October 13, 2018, at the School of Public Policy and Management (SPPM) at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and was organized and chaired by Yahua Wang (Professor and Associate Dean of the SPPM, Tsinghua University). This was the second Commons Workshop following the 2017 Commons Workshop hosted by the Tsinghua University.

The theme of this year’s workshop was “Challenge and Response of Governing the Commons in China: the 50th Anniversary of “Tragedy of the Commons”. It brought together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers from different disciplines and sectors in order to discuss, understand and promote the study of commons in China, including 7 keynotes and 4 parallel panels with more than 50 scholars from 23 academic institutes or universities attending. The topics discussed in this workshop range from “Chinese characteristics and experiences of governing the commons” to “Government, policy and community governance” to “The role of market and law in commons governance”. To encourage more Chinese and young researchers to join in the study of the commons, a youth panel was organized.

Participants at the China Commons Workshop during WorldCommonsWeek, October 2018

In total, 7 keynote lectures were delivered in the opening and closing sessions. Frank van Laerhoven (Assistant Professor at Utrecht University and Chief Editor of the International Journal of the Commons), Sergio Villamayor-Tomas (Marie Curie Research Fellow of Autonomous University of Barcelona), Eduardo Araral (Professor of National University of Singapore) and Zhiyuan Cui (Professor of Tsinghua University) delivered the opening keynotes. They critically reviewed the traditions and trends of the commons studies over the world since Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” was published in Science in 1968, from various perspectives of research topics, research approaches, scales, and governance mechanisms, as well as the theory development of design principles and anti-commons. They expected there will be increasing international and interdisciplinary cooperative studies, and also encouraged that there is great potential for Chinese commons studies.

Shuhao Tan (Professor of Renmin University of China) and Lihua Yang (Professor of Peking University) gave closing keynotes, sharing two recent Chinese studies of commons governance in grassland and local knowledge, which demonstrated the success and failures explorations in governing the commons with Chinese characteristics.

Participants of 2018 Commons Workshop at Tsinghua University, China

Yahua Wang as the chair of the Workshop gave a welcome remark and a closing summary. He pointed out that as an emerging study area in China, Chinese commons studies is growing fast in Chinese and international publications while the regional academic network is shaping at the beginning and keeping in closer connection with IASC. Though still lacking common academic language and accumulated studies among disciplinaries, Chinese commons studies are making efforts to promote the governance of the commons through theoretical dialogue with the international community. He also summarized Chinese experience in commons governance and encouraged Chinese scholars to share the Chinese story to the world.

For the preparation and possible participation of the IASC 2019 conference in Lima Peru, a lunch meeting was arranged for discussing the organization of Chinese panels on the IASC 2019. The Workshop gained great success from all accounts and reflected the latest progress of Chinese commons studies as well as deepened exchanges between Chinese network and the international community.

Before the Workshop, a three-day participatory training course, named “Systematic case study analysis of natural resource management from the perspective of Socio-Ecological Systems and the SES Meta-Analysis Database”, was facilitated by Sergio to Ph.D. students of SPPM; Frank, Eduardo, Sergio and Yahua as co-speakers in UTC+8, also join the 24 hours of global noon-hour webinars on October 12, to report Asian and Chinese commons studies as well as give a brief dialogue of the distinctions between western and eastern studies in commons governance. The two activities did a great favor in promoting the awareness of the commons studies in China.

Keynote lecturers at 2018 Commons Workshop

Report and photos by Minghui (Cathy) Zhang