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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

Asia Program

Bio

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.

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.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Foreign Affairs Article

The Great Leap Backward?

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy

China's environmental woes are mounting, and the country is fast becoming one of the leading polluters in the world. The situation continues to deteriorate because even when Beijing sets ambitious targets to protect the environment, local officials generally ignore them, preferring to concentrate on further advancing economic growth. Really improving the environment in China will require revolutionary bottom-up political and economic reforms.

See more in China; Environmental Policy; Pollution

Interview

Economy: Bush Shouldn’t Expect Much Help From China’s Hu on North Korea and Iran

Elizabeth C. Economy interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman

Elizabeth Economy, the Council's senior fellow for Asia, says that when President Hu Jintao of China meets President Bush at the White House next Thursday, the administration would like to see some progress on "sticky security issues" like North Korea and Iran. But she does not expect to see much help from China on these questions.

See more in China

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

Events

China and the Economy Roundtable Series

Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
Director: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
October 28, 2013—Present

The China and the Economy Roundtable Series is an ongoing series that will bring together a select group of economists, business leaders, and China experts to discuss what we know, don't know, and need to know about China's economy. Each session will focus on a different area of economic concern for China's leadership, such as the development of the service sector, the Chinese banking system, angel financing and venture capital, trends in the state-owned enterprise sector, and urbanization.

This series is made possible through generous support from the Starr Foundation.

U.S.-Asia Update Roundtable Series

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.

CFR Events

Academic Conference Call

U.S.-China Relations

Speaker:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
November 20, 2014 12:00-1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.

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Guest Event ⁄ 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.

ListenWatch

Corporate 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.

ListenWatch

Guest Event ⁄ 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.

ListenWatch

General Meeting ⁄ New York

The Presidential Inbox: China’s Leadership Transition

Speakers:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Cheng Li, Director of Research and Senior Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution, Edward N. Luttwak, Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Author, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy

Presider:

Thomas R. Keene, Editor-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.

ListenWatch

Media Conference Call

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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Conference Panel Session

Keynote II: China’s Economic Outlook

Speaker:

Stephen S. Roach, Chairman, Morgan Stanley Asia

Presider:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 19, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

General Meeting ⁄ Washington

The President's Inbox: Asia and the Economy

Speakers:

Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Caroline Atkinson, Adjunct Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations, Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Sebastian Mallaby, Director 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.

ListenWatch

Conference Panel Session

Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership, Session Three: Ensuring Stability in Northeast Asia

Panelists:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Tanaka Hitoshi, Senior Fellow, Japan Center for International Exchange, Gary Samore, Vice President and Director of Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Evans J.R. Revere, President, Korea Society
December 1, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

ListenWatch

Symposium ⁄ Denver

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

Speakers:

Madeleine K. Albright, Chairman, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; Former U.S. Secretary of State, Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Robert D. Coombe, Chancellor, University of Denver, Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Tom J. Farer, Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, John Hickenlooper, Mayor, City of Denver, Michael Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations, Jim Polsfut, Chairman, 2008 Rocky Mountain Roundtable

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
August 27, 2008

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

General Meeting

Republican National Convention: Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Policy Discussion

Introductory Speakers:

Clyde Tuggle, Honorary Vice Chairman,, Council on Foreign Relations, Maurice R. Greenberg

Speakers:

Elizabeth C. Economy, Max Boot, Benn Steil, Stephen E. Flynn
August 31, 2004

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Press/Panels