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Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies

Expertise

Chinese domestic and foreign policy; U.S.-China relations; global environmental issues.

Programs

U.S.-Asia Update Roundtable Series

Bio

Elizabeth Economy is the C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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. She is the author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future, 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 and The Internationalization of Environmental Protection. 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, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, among others. 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.

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. 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 School of Advanced International Studies, and the University of Washington's Jackson School of International Studies.

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.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Op-Ed

Beijing’s Actions in the South China Sea Demand a U.S. Response

Authors: Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael A. Levi
Washington Post
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.

See more in China; Vietnam; Territorial Disputes; Oil

Op-Ed

China Runs Into Natural-Resources Pushback

Authors: Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael A. Levi
Wall Street Journal

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.

See more in China; Energy and Environment

Op-Ed

China’s Bad Bet on the Environment

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
HBR Blog Network

Environmental activists have long been at the forefront of civil society development in China, despite the resistance of the Chinese leadership. But given the high importance of pollution to the Chinese people, it is time for Beijing to rethink its top-down approach to environmental governance, says Elizabeth Economy.

See more in China; Environmental Policy

Op-Ed

America, Syria, and the World: China

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
Wall Street Journal

In a section of this week's "Saturday Essay" in the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Economy says that China has been critical of the United States' Syria policy, hoping to highlight U.S. weakness and signal the onset of a power transition in the international system. However, she argues, China's observations about U.S. indecisiveness and Russian leadership only serve to emphasize China's inability to find its own diplomatic legs.

See more in China; Syria; Politics and Strategy; Defense and Security

Op-Ed

Hedging Bets Through China’s Transition

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
Washington Post

Elizabeth C. Economy says the world waits for stability in China's transition, but recent events in China like the two-week absence of Xi Jinping and Bo Xilai's expulsion from the CCP underscore the deep uncertainty that defines China's political system.

See more in China

Op-Ed

Leadership Gap in China

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
Washington Post

Elizabeth C. Economy  writes that "China matters more to the world every day-not just on trade and finance but on climate change, food safety, nonproliferation and other global challenges."

See more in China

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

Events

U.S.-Asia Update Roundtable Series

Director: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
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.

CFR Events

Meeting ⁄ New York

John B. Hurford Memorial Lecture: U.S. Strategy in Asia: Is the Pivot Working?

Speakers Kurt M. Campbell

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Asia Group, LLC; Author, The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia

, Thomas J. Christensen

William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War, and Co-Director, China and the World Program, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University;
Author, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power

, Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Coauthor, By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World


Presider Tim W. Ferguson

Editor, Forbes Asia

October 6, 2016 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m.


12:30 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. Meeting

October 6, 2016

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium

The Future of China

Panelists Leon Berkelmans

Director of the International Economy Program and the G20 Studies Centre, Lowy Institute for International Policy

, Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Yanzhong Huang

Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations

, Merriden Varrall

Director of the East Asia Program, Lowy Institute for International Policy


Presider Joseph Kahn

Foreign Editor, New York Times

April 21, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ Washington

The China Challenge: Balancing Cooperation and Competition

Speakers Madeleine K. Albright

Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group

, Jin-Yong Cai

Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, International Finance Corporation

, David M. Cote

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Honeywell

, Jon Huntsman

Chairman, Atlantic Council


Presider Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Introductory Speaker Henry M. Paulson

Chairman, Paulson Institute

January 29, 2015 5:30–6:00 p.m. - Registration and Reception
6:00–7:15 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

U.S.-China Relations

Speaker Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

November 20, 2014 12:00–1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

China's Resource Quest

Speaker Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

February 27, 2014 12:00–1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ Washington

DC Fellows' Book Launch Series--By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

Speakers Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Michael A. Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations


Presider James M. Lindsay

Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations

February 4, 2014 5:30–6:00 p.m. - Registration
6:00–6:45 p.m. - Meeting
6:45–7:15 p.m. - Reception and Book Signing

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

CFR Fellows' Book Launch Series--By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

Speakers Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Michael A. Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations


Presider Richard N. Haass

President, Council on Foreign Relations

January 29, 2014 5:30–6:00 p.m. - Reception
6:00–6:45 p.m. - Discussion
6:45–7:15 p.m. - Cocktail Reception and Book Signing

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

The Presidential Inbox: China’s Leadership Transition

Speakers Elizabeth C. EconomyC.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Cheng LiDirector of Research and Senior Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution, Edward N. LuttwakSenior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Author, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy
Presider Thomas R. KeeneEditor-at-Large, Bloomberg News
February 22, 2013 12:30–1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00–2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

Transition in China and the ASEAN Summit

Speakers Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies

, Joshua Kurlantzick

Fellow for Southeast Asia


Presider Bernard Gwertzman

Consulting Editor, CFR.org

November 15, 2012

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

Keynote II: China’s Economic Outlook

Speaker Stephen S. RoachChairman, Morgan Stanley Asia
Presider Elizabeth C. EconomyC.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 19, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ Washington

The President's Inbox: Asia and the Economy

Speakers Edward AldenBernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Caroline AtkinsonAdjunct Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations, Elizabeth C. EconomyC.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Sebastian MallabyDirector of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies; Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics; Deputy Director of Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
February 19, 2009 6:00–6:30 p.m. - Reception
6:30–7:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ Denver

2008 Rocky Mountain Roundtable on International Relations: Luncheon Discussion: Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the Next Administration

Speakers Madeleine K. AlbrightChairman, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; Former U.S. Secretary of State, Edward AldenBernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Robert D. CoombeChancellor, University of Denver, Elizabeth C. EconomyC.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Tom J. FarerDean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, John HickenlooperMayor, City of Denver, Jim PolsfutChairman, 2008 Rocky Mountain Roundtable
Presider Richard N. HaassPresident, Council on Foreign Relations
August 27, 2008

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

U.S.-Japan Symposium: The United States, Japan, and the Rise of China

Speakers Elizabeth C. Economy

C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Shiraishi Takashi

President, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); President, Institute of Developing Economies-JETRO


Presider Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

This meeting is not for attribution.

Press/Panels