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The Politics of Environmental Policy in the People's Republic of China


  • Lester Ross

    1. Lester Ross is an attorney in the New York office of the law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. He has a doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Harvard Law School. His principal research areas are Chinese environmental affairs and Chinese law.
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The People's Republic of China (PRC) has made substantial progress in developing environmental legislation and a complementary regulatory structure. These gains are directly related to the economic reforms and opening to the outside world that began in the 1970s, which introduced a greater emphasis on efficiency and more awareness of the costs associated with pollution and environmental degradation. However, the economic growth and devolution of power unleashed by the reforms have also created new environmental stresses and to some extent reduced the regulatory capability of governmental authorities. As a result, some environmental stresses are increasing even as progress is made on other fronts. Political participation is restricted and environmental issues only occasionally acquire political salience. However, international pressure on the PRC to conform its conduct to international environmental norms is likely to increase, which is likely to affect domestic policymaking.