Elizabeth Economy is the C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Dr. Economy has published widely on both Chinese domestic and foreign policy. Her most recent book, with Michael Levi, is By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is the author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future(Cornell University Press, 2004; 2nd edition, 2010; Japanese edition, 2005; Chinese edition, 2011), which was named one of the top 50 sustainability books in 2008 by the University of Cambridge, won the 2005 International Convention on Asia Scholars Award for the best social sciences book published on Asia, and was listed as one of the top ten books of 2004 by the Globalist as well as one of the best business books of 2010 by Booz Allen Hamilton's strategy+business magazine. She also coedited China Joins the World: Progress and Prospects (Council on Foreign Relations Press, with Michel Oksenberg, 1999) and The Internationalization of Environmental Protection (Cambridge University Press, with Miranda Schreurs, 1997). She has published articles in foreign policy and scholarly journals including Foreign Affairs, Harvard Business Review, and Foreign Policy, and op-eds in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal,among others. Dr. Economy is a frequent guest on nationally broadcast television and radio programs, has testified before Congress on numerous occasions, and regularly consults for U.S. government agencies and companies. She writes about topics involving China on CFR's Asia Program blog, Asia Unbound, which is syndicated by Forbes.com, and authors a monthly column on China's environment for the Diplomat.
Dr. Economy serves on the board of managers of Swarthmore College and the board of trustees of the Asia Foundation. She is also on the advisory council of Network 20/20 and the science advisory council of the Stockholm Environment Forum. She is a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF)'s Global Agenda Council on the United States and served as a member and then vice chair of WEF's Global Agenda Council on the Future of China from 2008 to 2014. Dr. Economy has also served on the board of the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development. She has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, and the University of Washington's Jackson School of International Studies.
Dr. Economy received her BA from Swarthmore College, her AM from Stanford University, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. In 2008, she received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Vermont Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.
China's Changing Fortunes
Chinese President Xi Jinping has articulated a simple but powerful vision: the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is a patriotic call to arms, drawing inspiration from the glories of China's imperial past and the ideals of its socialist present to promote political unity at home and influence abroad. After just two years in office, Xi has advanced himself as a transformative leader, adopting an agenda that proposes to reform, if not revolutionize, political and economic relations not only within China but also with the rest of the world. To do so, he has positioned himself as the head of numerous committees and leading groups on economic reform, the military, and foreign policy, made tackling anti-corruption his signature issue, and sought to eliminate alternative political voices. Meanwhile, he is attempting to reestablish China as a global power, constructing institutions, infrastructure, and initiatives to implement Beijing's more muscular foreign policy. For the United States and much of the rest of the world, Xi's China provokes two different reactions: excitement about what a stronger, less corrupt China could achieve, and significant concern over the challenges an authoritarian, militaristic China might pose to the U.S.-backed liberal order. My work will result in a book exploring these developments and their implications for the United States and the world.
Assessing the Pivot: U.S. Engagement in Asia
The Obama administration's rebalance, or "pivot," to Asia has placed the region at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. Washington is shoring up its alliances and committing greater military force to Asia, while at the same time is attempting to deepen economic engagement, most notably through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But amid these commitments, shifting regional dynamics are forcing the United States to reassess its strategy toward Asia. China, eager to establish its primacy in the region, is more assertive as its economic growth gives rise to greater political influence and military might. Democratic transitions in Myanmar and Indonesia have been mirrored by the return of authoritarian tendencies in Thailand and Malaysia. In Northeast Asia, North Korea remains its obstinate, mercurial self, while Japan and South Korea, two of Washington's most reliable allies, remain distrustful of each other. How can the United States deal with these myriad issues? What are U.S. national interests in Asia, and how should Washington advance them? I will address these questions and more during meetings of the U.S.-Asia Update Roundtable Series and on the Asia Studies' blog, Asia Unbound.
The New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan
The emergence of China and more recently, India, has reshaped relations and produced a broader area of economic integration in Asia. Even in southern Asia, where the strategic triangle of China, India, and Pakistan has resulted in flashpoints and suspicions, both India and China have kept their sights on increasing trade and economic growth as a security imperative for the long term. However, southern Asia's security, political, and economic foundations face stresses that could profoundly alter its evolution, usher in the return of geopolitics, and reshape political and economic relations globally. This two-year project, generously funded by the MacArthur Foundation, will explore potential flashpoints and promising areas for cooperation among China, India, and Pakistan—and identify areas where the United States can help. Over the next two years, I will explore these issues with my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Dan Markey in a roundtable series and several publications. The project will culminate in a capstone symposium and a Council report in 2016.
The Project on the New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan is made possible by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.
China's pursuit of natural resources is restructuring markets, pushing up commodity prices, and transforming resource-rich economies. Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and the global effects of its meteoric growth.
After decades of stalled or blocked reforms, China’s environmental protection effort may finally be gaining traction. Elizabeth Economy looks at four barometers for gauging the progress of China’s “war on pollution.”
India now faces many of the same environmental challenges that China does. But there are striking differences in how the two countries are confronting environmental issues, says Elizabeth Economy, and both countries have much to learn from one another.
China is cleaning up its act at home, but will leaders be willing to tackle illegal environmental depredations abroad? Elizabeth Economy looks at what more China can do to protect the world’s natural resources.
China’s unexpectedly easy cooperation with the U.S. on climate change, security and trade says a lot about the interests at the very top: Barack Obama’s legacy and Xi Jinping’s ambitions, says Elizabeth Economy.
Xi Jinping's reforms are designed to produce a corruption-free, politically cohesive, and economically powerful one-party state with global reach: a Singapore on steroids. But there is no guarantee the reforms will be as transformative as the Chinese leader hopes, says Elizabeth Economy.
The United States should consider joining the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a means of guaranteeing that it matches financing strength with sustainable environmental practices, says Elizabeth Economy.
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Elizabeth Economy writes that the Chinese government needs to openly address the events of June 4, 1989, to claim the legitimacy it desires at home and the leadership it seeks abroad.
The China National Overseas Oil Coorporation (CNOOC) began drilling in Vietnamese-claimed waters late last week, accompanied by more than seventy vessels, including armed Chinese warships.Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi write that the United States needs to face up to the full magnitude of the Chinese challenge to have any hope of successfully confronting it.
Increasingly frequent clashes between China and its neighbors heighten the risk of escalating tensions and military conflict over territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Policy experts discuss a range of preventive measures aimed at mitigating miscalculations by sea captains or political leaders that could trigger an armed conflict.
The East and South China Seas are the scene of escalating territorial disputes between China and its neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The tensions, shaped by China's growing assertiveness, have fueled concerns over armed conflict and raised questions about Washington's security commitments in its strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.
Though strategists have long feared that China's quest for natural resources would lead to ever-higher prices, a breakdown in trade, and perhaps even wars, Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi write that a stunning WTO rebuke of Chinese exports restrictions shows that the global system is far more resilient than the worriers have claimed.
Authors: Orville Schell, Vincent Ni, Leta Hong Fincher, Elizabeth C. Economy, Robert Kapp, Jindong Cai, and Sheila Melvin
"The altar of wishful thinking is that this trip will in some way influence how Chinese president Xi Jinping directs the Chinese navy to behave on the East and South China Seas or how he responds to Russia's behavior in Crimea."
The current state of U.S.-China relations would appear to be in disarray—a number of high-profile efforts at cooperation have fallen short, and domestic politics in both countries offer little reason for hope. But even though there have not been any major breakthroughs, small accomplishments can nonetheless be significant, says Elizabeth Economy, building a strong foundation to the bilateral relationship.
China's premier declared a "war on pollution" at the National People's Congress, responding to the Chinese public's distress over the state of the country's environment. Though the government announced an array of new targets and measures, Elizabeth Economy argues that Beijing must move beyond bold promises of change and initiate real environmental reform.
"The United States, the European Union, Japan, and Canada, among many other countries, have long been deeply involved in assisting China's environmental protection effort. The question is not what more the outside world needs to do but what Beijing is prepared to do."
Directors: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, and Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program July 1, 2007—Present
The U.S.-Asia Update Roundtable Series is an ongoing series that provides a forum for the discussion of the major issues that shape Chinese domestic policies and that have an impact on the U.S. relationship with China and the rest of the region. The Roundtable cosponsors events with the Council’s General Meetings and Corporate programs. Recent sessions have included speakers such as Michael Green, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Major General Karl Eikenberry; and Randall Schriver, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Approximately six sessions are held each program year.
This series is made possible through generous support from the Starr Foundation.
General Meeting ⁄ Washington
The China Challenge: Balancing Cooperation and Competition