China’s potential transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient or ‘post-carbon’ society is a key concern for the world. There is an urgent need for better understanding of this process, posing major challenges for social science given the complex, systemic and emergent nature of the multiple processes involved
in such a possible transition. This Working Paper is the first of a series of four 'China Low Carbon Reports' outlining the STEPS-Centre affiliate project 'Low Carbon Innovation in China: Prospects, Politics and Practice', led from Lancaster University. The project is designed around problem-led social scientific research involving partners from leading UK and Chinese institutions. It aims to assess the status of, and opportunities for, low-carbon transitions in China by going beyond existing technology-focused approaches to innovation. In particular, this involves a re-insertion and reconceptualisation of
power within the processes of low-carbon transitions, conceived as processes of socio-technical systems, and with greater attention paid to everyday social practices of both ‘users’ and producers.
Through this distinct approach, the project offers empirical, methodological and theoretical contributions to the study of (low-carbon) socio-technical transitions both in China and more broadly.
The paper outlines the background to this project, the urgency of deeper and more productive understanding of the prospects of low-carbon transition in China, and the theoretical and methodological approaches adopted to do this.