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Drawing on historical research, case studies, and interviews with officials, scholars and activists in China, the author traces the economic and political roots of China's environmental challenge and the evolution of the leadership's response. She argues that China's current approach to environmental protection mirrors the one embraced for economic development: devolving authority to local officials, opening the door to private actors, and inviting participation from the international community, while retaining only weak central control. The result has been a patchwork of environmental protection in which a few wealthy regions with strong leaders and international ties improve their local environments, while most of the country continues to deteriorate, sometimes suffering irrevocable damage.
The second edition of the book is updated with information about the tumultuous transformation of the Chinese landscape as the Government and people deal with local and international groups ever more concerned about climate change and dwindling energy resources.