What does it mean for the future of the planet when one of the world’s most durable authoritarian governance systems pursues “ecological civilization”? Despite its staggering pollution and colossal appetite for resources, China exemplifies a model of state-led environmentalism which concentrates decisive political, economic, and epistemic power under centralized leadership. On the face of it, China seems to embody hope for a radical new approach to environmental governance.
In this thought-provoking book, Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro probe the concrete mechanisms of China’s coercive environmentalism to show how “going green” helps the state to further other agendas such as citizen surveillance and geopolitical influence. Through top-down initiatives, regulations, and campaigns to mitigate pollution and environmental degradation, the Chinese authorities also promote control over the behavior of individuals and enterprises, pacification of borderlands, and expansion of Chinese power and influence along the Belt and Road and even into the global commons. Given the limited time that remains to mitigate climate change and protect millions of species from extinction, we need to consider whether a green authoritarianism can show us the way. This book explores both its promises and risks.
Yifei Li is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at NYU Shanghai and Global Network Assistant Professor at NYU. In the 2020-2021 academic year, he is also Residential Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich. His research concerns both the macro-level implications of Chinese environmental governance for state-society relations, marginalized populations, and global ecological sustainability, as well as the micro-level bureaucratic processes of China’s state interventions into the environmental realm. He has received research support from the United States National Science Foundation, the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, and the China Times Cultural Foundation, among other extramural sources. He is coauthor (with Judith Shapiro) of China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet. His recent work appears in Current Sociology, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Environmental Sociology, Journal of Environmental Management, and other scholarly outlets. He received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Bachelor’s from Fudan University.
Judith Shapiro is the director of the Masters in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development for the School of International Service at American University. She was one of the first Americans to live in China after U.S.-China relations were normalized in 1979, and taught English at the Hunan Teachers’ College in Changsha, China. She has also taught at Villanova, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Aveiro (Portugal) and the Southwest Agricultural University in Chongqing, China. She is a visiting professor at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University. Professor Shapiro’s research and teaching focus on global environmental politics and policy, the environmental politics of Asia, and Chinese politics under Mao. She is the author, co-author or editor of nine books, including China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet (Polity 2020), China’s Environmental Challenges (Polity 2016), Mao’s War against Nature (Cambridge University Press 2001), Son of the Revolution (with Liang Heng, Knopf 1983), After the Nightmare (with Liang Heng, Knopf 1987), Cold Winds, Warm Winds: Intellectual Life in China Today (with Liang Heng, Wesleyan University Press 1987), Debates on the Future of Communism (co-edited with Vladimir Tismaneanu, Palgrave 1991), and, together with her mother Joan Hatch Lennox, Lifechanges: How Women Can Make Courageous Choices (Random House, 1991). Dr. Shapiro earned her Ph.D. from American University’s School of International Service. She holds an M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and another M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Her B.A. from Princeton University is in Anthropology and East Asian Studies.
Introduction by Maria Montoya, Dean of Arts and Science, Global Network Associate Professor of History, NYU Shanghai Associate Professor of History, NYU.