For more than two decades, under the imperative of ‘developing the country at all costs', local governments in China have allowed developers and industrialists to set up polluting industries which have had deleterious effects on citizens’ health and the natural environment. However, China appears to have entered a new phase of determined and concerted efforts on the part of both the authorities and the public to tackle environmental problems. The articles in this special issue of China Information examine the main weaknesses and strengths of China’s current system of environmental governance. The central questions linking the case studies reported here are concerned with whether and how environmental policies formulated at the central level are implemented at the local level and how different agents and interests, making use of the available legislative means, influence this implementation process. Engaging a range of political, economic, social and cultural perspectives, the five contributions in this collection concentrate on two broad issues: resolution mechanisms for public participation in environmental governance and the actual enforcement of environmental regulations.