The Environmental Implications of Political and Economic Reform in Communist China

Essay by fleazUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, December 2004

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Within the last decade, much of the world has seen an increase in the amount of concern for the Chinese economy and its freight train like behavior. With the rapid democratization of said economy, many people are also becoming more and more aware of the state of their environment as well (and the relationship between the two). Is this a cause for concern? In short, yes, as in a country which bolsters almost a quarter of the world's population, speedy, large scale, and often unregulated development will obviously have dire consequences for their natural environment. However, recent economic reform isn't solely to blame for the massive environmental degradation which China is experiencing. A long history of political negligence and disregard for environmental policy and practice are also a key contributor to the recent state of unrest. In recent years however, the question of equilibrium has been raised. Can a country with such an overzealous population possibly find a balance point between their desired modernization and utilization of natural resources? And if so, what roles would both the communist political body and various economic entities have to play? This paper seeks to examine the state of the environment within China as it has existed for years under such authoritarian rule and at the same time, address a number of crucial variables (social, economic, and political) which will be of key importance for impeding the process of environmental degradation.

To date, the environmental dilemmas facing China are not simply of regional concern, but have found themselves to be of great concern to the rest of the world. With almost every discussion of global environmental issues relating at some point to China, they have become a focal point of much environmental distress. Home to approximately 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in...