Explaining the Failure of Environmental Law in China
95 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019
Date Written: April 1, 2016
We examined the role of China’s political system in shaping China’s current environmental status quo. We will show that economic growth has inexorably become an overriding objective that derives from the Party’s desperation to maintain power because increased wealth accumulation supports the regime by appeasing the people, co-opting powerful elites, and strengthening the security apparatus. Environmental protection is not vital to the Party’s survival and therefore is sacrificed for economic growth, at least until pollution-related unrest endangers the Party. Consequently, ordinary citizens are deprived of the right to participate in environmental decision making, industrial enterprises are encouraged to expand at the cost of both the environment and citizens’ health, and officials are incentivized to prioritize economic growth and fiscal revenue over environmental sustainability and human welfare. It is therefore not surprising to find both a rapidly growing economy and an environment that is nearly collapsed in China.
Keywords: environmental law, air pollution, surface water pollution, economic growth, government failure, barriers to access to justice, enforcement
JEL Classification: K31, K33
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