New Book



In the second edition of this acclaimed, trailblazing book, noted China specialist and environmentalist Judith Shapiro investigates China’s struggle to achieve sustainable development against a backdrop of acute rural poverty and soaring middle-class consumption. Using five core analytical concepts to explore the complexities of this struggle – the implications of globalization; the challenges of governance; contested national identity; the evolution of civil society; and problems of environmental justice and displacement of environmental harm – Shapiro poses a number of pressing questions: Can the Chinese people equitably achieve the higher living standards enjoyed in the developed world? Are China’s environmental problems so severe that they may shake the government’s stability, legitimacy and control? To what extent are China’s environmental problems due to world-wide patterns of consumption? Does China’s rise bode ill for the displacement of environmental harm to other parts of the world? And in a world of increasing limits on resources, how can we build a system in which people enjoy equal access to resources without taking them from successive generations, from the vulnerable, or from other species?

China and the planet are at a pivotal moment; transformation to a more sustainable development model is still possible. But – as Shapiro persuasively argues – doing so will require humility, creativity, and a rejection of business as usual. The window of opportunity will not be open much longer.

“Judith Shapiro has given us an indispensable book: vibrant, levelheaded, and up-to-the-minute, the new edition of her superb chronicle of China’s environmental struggle encompasses both the global impact – reaching from Alberta tar sands to Kenyan farms – as well as the nuanced domestic politics that will shape the future. Amid her sober accounting of today’s crisis, she gives us reason to hope that a country that can ‘make rivers flow uphill,’ as a Mao-era poem put it, may play a vital role in tackling climate change.”
Evan Osnos,  author of  Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China


Click here to purchase the second edition.

Latest featured interview with Professor Shapiro on Chinadialogue


To hear Professor Shapiro talking about the book.

Praise for the First Edition: 

“A well-researched and balanced book about one of the great issues of our time.”

South China Morning Post

“An exemplary introduction not only to China’s ecological crisis, but also to the analytical tools that might help us to understand and approach it constructively. ”

 China Dialogue

“This revolutionary book could be one of the key environmental texts of our age.”

 Times Higher Education

“A well-written book with an astonishing captivating authorial voice. Fascinating, thoughtful and topical.”

 International Affairs

“An excellent introduction to China’s mounting environmental challenges and the prospects for change – relevant for student, young researchers and the general public. ”

 China Journal

“A concise and illuminating book.”

Financial Times

“Shapiro could be applauded for leveraging her unusual sensitivity to and superb knowledge of China’s historical and cultural complexities to generate a fascinating account of the monumental environmental changes currently underway in that country. ”

— Perspectives on Politics

“An excellent book, which I would recommend to any reader interested in a well-written and balanced account of the toll rapid economic growth has taken on China’s environment. ”

— The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies

“A valuable source for covering the environment in Chinese politics courses, and an up-to-date text for the political sections of the anthropology and geography courses that cover Chinese environmental problems.”

— China Quarterly 


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One Comment

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