The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future Review

The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future
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The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future Review"The River Runs Black" by Elizabeth C. Economy is an intelligent analysis of contemporary China and its burgeoning environmental crisis. This engaging book helps us understand how globalization is reshaping China and issues an urgent plea for international cooperation to help monitor and rectify an increasingly worrysome situation.
Ms. Economy tells us how China's environment has been steadily deteriorating over the past centuries due to wars, political power struggles and overpopulation. However, today's problems
are attributable to specific policy decisions by China's government that has favored rapid economic development through engagement with the international business community. Unfortunately, the particular kinds of economic development favored by China's rulers has led to myriad environmental problems including deforestation, desertification, and air and water pollution. The collusion of local government and business interests has made it difficult to obtain reliable data or to implement solutions where it is feared that plant shutdowns might
result in mass unemployment and social unrest, making difficult problems seem untractable.
Environmental consciousness in China has increased as the problems have become more visible and as the country has engaged with the world economy. Ms. Economy profiles some of the courageous and inspirational individuals who have struggled for conservation, urban renewal and grass-roots democracy such as Tang Xiyang, He Bochuan, Dai Qing and others. While environmentalists have achieved some successes (such as protecting endangered species of monkeys and antelopes), the author believes that the government's championing of highly destructive projects such as the Three Gorges Dam proves that much more needs to be done.
Ms. Economy recounts the experiences of the former Communist nations of Eastern Europe to gain insight into how China might resolve its environmental problems. The Chernobyl disaster catalyzed local environmental groups into pushing for political reforms that brought down the Communists in the USSR and elsewhere. Recognizing that China's Communist Party is a "patronage machine committed to rapid economic development" and devoid of any ideological purpose other than self-perpetuation, Ms. Economy believes that increasing democratization in China could easily undermine the country's single Party system. Of course, China's leaders are keenly aware of this threat and consequently have tightly circumscribed the activities of environmental organizations, but the author is hopeful that the contradictions between increasing environmental degradation and the lack of a meaningful democracy will eventually force China's political system to change.
In the last section, Ms. Economy speculates about the manner in which China may develop in the future. The author envisions three possible scenarios: China goes green; inertia sets in; and environmental meltdown. Ms. Economy thinks that the U.S. should take the lead in encouraging China to develop its regulatory system and implement green technologies so that the country can embark on an environmentally sustainable path. Indeed, the unpredictable consequences of a Chinese environmental meltdown should give the international community pause to consider how it might help China -- and by extension all of us -- to avoid a worse case scenario.
I highly recommend this superbly written book to everyone.The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future Overview

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