The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future (Council on Foreign Relations Book) (Paperback)
China's spectacular economic growth over the past two decades has dramatically depleted the country's natural resources and produced skyrocketing rates of pollution. Environmental degradation in China has also contributed to significant public health problems, mass migration, economic loss, and social unrest. In The River Runs Black, Elizabeth C. Economy examines China's growing environmental crisis and its implications for the country's future development.
Drawing on historical research, case studies, and interviews with officials, scholars, and activists in China, Economy traces the economic and political roots of China's environmental challenge and the evolution of the leadership's response. She argues that China's current approach to environmental protection mirrors the one embraced for economic development: devolving authority to local officials, opening the door to private actors, and inviting participation from the international community, while retaining only weak central control.
The result has been a patchwork of environmental protection in which a few wealthy regions with strong leaders and international ties improve their local environments, while most of the country continues to deteriorate, sometimes suffering irrevocable damage. Economy compares China's response with the experience of other societies and sketches out several possible futures for the country.
This second edition of The River Runs Black is updated with information about events between 2005 and 2009, covering China's tumultuous transformation of its economy and its landscape as it deals with the political implications of this behavior as viewed by an international community ever more concerned about climate change and dwindling energy resources.
About the Author
Elizabeth C. Economy is C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies, at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is coeditor of China Joins the World: Progress and Prospects and The Internationalization of Environmental Protection. She has published articles and opinion pieces in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune, among others. She consults regularly for the U.S. government on issues related to China and the environment and is a frequent television and radio commentator on U.S.-China relations.