Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 8, 2017

Environmental Degradation and Economic Development in China: An Interrelated Governance Challenge

  • Inna Amesheva EMAIL logo


The author argues that the deterioration of the natural environment in China provides a persuasive reason to reorient China’s economic growth towards a more sustainable path. Reconciling the development and environment imperatives needs to become an urgent priority for the Chinese government in order to avert the cascading implications that will arise in terms of social unrest, loss of further development opportunities as well as deepening income inequality. This paper thus examines the inter-relationship between the current ecological challenge in China and the need for economic sustainability. It evaluates the extent of environmental damage in China and focuses on the environmental impact on development and social inequality. The paper then examines the recent legislative measures that have been taken by the Chinese government to address the problem of inefficient environmental monitoring. The author suggests that further reform is needed to achieve an economically and ecologically just pathway for China’s future. The paper therefore demonstrates that the environment–development challenge in China is mainly a challenge of governance. Resolving it will contribute to better environmental justice and development.


Green GDP Accounting Study Report 2004 Issued, Issues, Xinhua, September 12, 2006, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

“OECD Highlights Chinese Pollution”, Financial Times, July 2007Search in Google Scholar

United Nations in China, Environment and Health in the People’s Republic of China, Occasional Paper (2007), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Government White Paper on China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change, pt. VII (November 2011)Search in Google Scholar

The US$1 trillion cost of cleaning up China’s cities, Eco Business (14 June 2016), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

The Relationship Between the People’s Congresses, the State Administrative Organs, the People’s Courts and People’s Procuratorates, Central People’s Government, P.R.C., available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

《2014–2015 年节能减排低碳发展行动方案》(全文), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Arnold, C., Fourth-Generation Environmental Law: Integrationist and Multimodal, 35 William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review (2010).Search in Google Scholar

Balme, R., The Politics of Environmental Justice in China (August 11, 2011) APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper.Search in Google Scholar

Buckley, C., Silver Lining in China’s Smog as It Puts Focus on Emissions, The New York Times, September 2013).Search in Google Scholar

Cao, J., R. Garbaccio and M.S. Ho, China’s 11th Five-Year Plan and the Environment: Reducing SO2 Emissions, 3 Environmental Economic Policy, no. 2 (2009).10.1093/reep/rep006Search in Google Scholar

Chan, S., Human Rights in China and the United States: Competing Visions and Discrepant Performances, 24 Human Rights. Quarterly (2002).10.1353/hrq.2002.0044Search in Google Scholar

Chao, C.-M., T’iao-T’iao versus K’uai-K’uai: A Perennial Dispute between the Central and Local Governments in Mainland China, in B.-J. Lin and J.T. Myers (eds.), Forces for Change in Contemporary China (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 1993), pp. 158–170.Search in Google Scholar

Clarke, D., The Execution of Civil Judgments in China, 141 China Quarterly (1995).10.1017/S0305741000032914Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, J., An Introduction to Law in China, 8 Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (2007).Search in Google Scholar

Czarnezki, J.J., Climate Policy & U.S.-China Relations, 12 Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (2011).10.2307/vermjenvilaw.12.3.659Search in Google Scholar

Dingjian, C., Development of the Chinese Legal System since 1979 and Its Current Crisis and Transformation, 11 Cultural Dynamics (1999).10.1177/092137409901100202Search in Google Scholar

Duggan, J., Kunming Pollution Protest is Tip of Rising Chinese Environmental Activism, The Guardian (May 16, 2013), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Economy, E.C., The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).Search in Google Scholar

Ferris, R.J., Jr. and H. Zhang, Reaching Out to the Rule of Law: China’s Continuing Efforts to Develop an Effective Environmental Law Regime, 11 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal (2003).Search in Google Scholar

Fuller, G.H., Economic Warlords: How De Facto Federalism Inhibits China’s Compliance with International Trade Law and Jeopardizes Global Environmental Initiatives, 75 Tennessee Law Review (2008).Search in Google Scholar

Guttman, D., Different Operating Systems, Environmental Forum (November/December 2008).Search in Google Scholar

Ho, P., The Wasteland Auction Policy in Northwest China: Solving Environmental Degradation and Rural Poverty?, 30 The Journal of Peasant Studies, no. 3–4 (2003).10.1080/03066150412331311259Search in Google Scholar

Holden Platt, K., Chinese Air Pollution Deadliest in World, Report Says (National Geographic, 2007), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Hong, Z., Revised green law imposes stiffer penalties (April 2014) The South China Morning Post, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Jack, C. and B. Van Rooij, available at University of California at Irvine, in Revamped Environmental Law Raises Hope for Cleanup in China (Associated Press, 14 March 2015), available at: <>.Search in Google Scholar

Jakes, S., China’s Water Woes, Time, 2 October 2006, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Jin, H., Y. Qian and B.R. Weingast, Regional Decentralization and Fiscal Incentives: Federalism, Chinese Style, 89 Journal of Public. Economics (2005).10.1016/j.jpubeco.2004.11.008Search in Google Scholar

Kezhu, X. and A. Wang, Spotlight on NGO Activism in China: Recent Developments at the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) (China Environmental Series, 8, 2006), pp. 103–104.Search in Google Scholar

Kim, K.S., R. Hao and A. Champeau, Growth, Environment, and Politics: The Case of China, in China and the World Economy, proceedings of the University of Washington Research Center for International Economics (2012).Search in Google Scholar

Lee, C.J., Pollute First, Control Later No More: Combating Environmental Degradation in China through an Approach Based in Public Interest Litigation and Public Participation, 17 Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal (2008).Search in Google Scholar

Li, V. and G. Lang, China’s “Green GDP” Experiment and the Struggle for Ecological Modernisation, 40 Journal of Contemporary Asia, no. 1 (2010).10.1080/00472330903270346Search in Google Scholar

Lu, R., China’s Real Inconvenient Truth: Its Class Divide (2015) Foreign Policy, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Makinen, J., In Beijing, political pomp abounds as China kicks off ‘two meetings’ (March 2015), LA Times, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Matt, P. and N. Young, Premier Pledges Green Performance Assessment Amidst Dust-Filled Skies, China Development Brief (24 April 2006).Search in Google Scholar

Mingyuin, W., Issues Related to the Implementation of China’s Energy Law, 8 Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (2007).Search in Google Scholar

Montinola, G., Y. Qian and B.R. Weingast, Federalism, Chinese Style: The Political Basis for Economic Success in China, 48 World Policy (1995).10.1353/wp.1995.0003Search in Google Scholar

OECD, Environmental Compliance and Enforcement in China: An Assessment of Current Practices and Ways Forward, 19–20 (2006), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Peerenboom, R., China’s Long March toward Rule of Law (1st ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).10.1017/CBO9780511493737Search in Google Scholar

Pring, G. and C. Pring, Specialized Environmental Courts and Tribunals: The Explosion of New Institutions to Adjudicate Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development, Conference on Access to Justice, Enforcement and the Role of Courts (2010), available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Ryan, E., The Elaborate Paper Tiger: Environmental Enforcement and the Rule of Law in China, 24 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum (Fall 2013).Search in Google Scholar

Ryan, E., The Paper Tiger Gets Teeth: Developments in Chinese Environmental Law, The Huffington Post, 30 June 2014, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Sitaraman, S., Regulating the Belching Dragon: Rule of Law, Politics of Enforcement, and Pollution Prevention in Post-Mao Industrial China, 18 Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, no. 2 (2007).Search in Google Scholar

The World Bank, Clear Water, Blue Skies: China’s Environment in the New Century, 23 (1997).Search in Google Scholar

Wang, A.L., “China’s Environmental Tipping Point”, in T.B. Weston and L.M. Jensen (eds.), China in and beyond the Headlines, Vol. III (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012).Search in Google Scholar

Wang, A.L., The Search for Sustainable Legitimacy: Environmental Law and Bureaucracy in China, 37 Harvard Environmental Law Review (2013).10.2139/ssrn.2128167Search in Google Scholar

Woo, W.T., The Challenges of Governance Structure, Trade Disputes and Natural Environment to China’s Growth, 40 Comparative Economic Studies, no. 4 (2007).10.2139/ssrn.1436924Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, B. and M. Zhang, Specialized Environmental Courts in China: Status Quo, Challenges and Responses, 30 Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, no. 3 (August 2012).10.1080/02646811.2012.11435303Search in Google Scholar

Zheng, Y., De Facto Federalism in China: Reforms and Dynamics of Central-Local Relations (Singapore: World Scientific, 2007).10.1142/6230Search in Google Scholar

Zhiping, L., The Challenges of China’s Discharge Permit System and Effective Solutions, 24 Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law (2005).Search in Google Scholar

Zhongxiang, Z., China’s Reds Embrace Green, 170 Far Eastern Economic Review (2007); ABI/Inform Global, 34.Search in Google Scholar

环保部:工业和城市污染正向农村, available at: <>Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-7-8
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 4.3.2024 from
Scroll to top button