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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

Featured Publications

All Publications

Ask CFR Experts

Is China still “rising” or has it already “risen”?

Asked by Lauren Billi, from New York University

Both are accurate. China certainly "has risen" to become a global economic power: in only three decades, it has transformed itself into the world's second largest economy, largest exporter, and largest provider of loans to the developing world. At the same time, China is rising: its economic and political system, as well as its foreign policy, is still developing. To state categorically that China "has risen" is to accept that the China of today will be substantially the same as the China of five to ten years from now, and few people in or outside China would accept such a conclusion.

Read full answer

See more in China; Economic Development

Testimony

China’s Global Quest for Resources and Implications for the United States

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy

China's search for food and land in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, reflects the country's pressing scarcity of water. China's approach has set off alarm bells in the region and the United States should work actively to address China's water security needs, argues Elizabeth Economy before the House U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

See more in China; Water Security

Video
Transition 2012

Transition 2012

Video Brief: China

Speaker: Elizabeth C. Economy

China's rising global prominence, increasing assertiveness and upcoming leadership transition may pose significant challenges for the next U.S. president, says CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy.

See more in China; Elections

Current Projects

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.

Past Projects

Study Group on China and the Environment

Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
April 1, 2001—December 1, 2001

The importance of China’s environmental practices both for its domestic stability and the resolution of global environmental problems is growing. This study group will address three core questions that U.S. policy makers should consider. First, how are the environmental challenges in China leading to the establishment of new political institutions, actors, and alliances that may challenge the political system? Second, with which Chinese actors should the United States engage in dialogue and cooperative ventures? Finally, what do these domestic political changes suggest for China’s interest and capacity in responding to the U.S. environmental priorities, such as global climate change? Elizabeth Economy will produce a book to assess environmental trends within the broader context of China’s political and economic reforms and its expanding linkages to the outside world. The analysis will also serve as the basis for a set of policy recommendations for U.S. officials as they negotiate Sino-American relations.

Study Group on Governance in China

Chair: Arnold Kanter
Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
October 1, 1998—April 1, 1999
To date there has been no examination of the implications and opportunities involved in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) political transition for either the success of China’s economic reform program or overall U.S. interests. The foreign policy community in the United States needs a more complete picture of the evolving social and political dynamics that will ultimately shape the China that emerges in the 21st century. This group filled in this gap by examining the political reforms underway in the PRC, their implications for the success of economic reforms, and the opportunities for U.S. actors (government, business, and NGOs) to influence this process. Topics explored included: grassroots democracy, center-provincial relations, the evolution of the rule of law, the People’s Liberation Army and nationalism, and the rise of the entrepreneurial and middle classes. Elizabeth Economy’s analysis from the study group proceedings was the foundation for an article, titled "Reforming China," that was published in the journal Survival (Autumn 1999).

Conference: From Bicycles to Beepers—the Politics and Economics of Business in Asia

Directors: Jeffrey A. Reinke, Chief of Staff to the President, Jacqui Selbst Schein, and Nancy Yao
Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
April 1, 1997

One of the most salient characteristics of China today is the transitional nature of its economy. Its operations in many areas of business relations suffer from the incomplete nature of its legal system, the vagaries of domestic politics, and the complex interrelationship between Chinese business and political entities. "From Bicycles to Beepers" explored issues such as: What are the recent changes in legal reform, banking, and securities? How is Beijing molding Shanghai to be China's financial center in 2000? How do investments differ from province to province? U.S. Secretary for Agriculture Daniel R. Glickman delivered the keynote address, and seminar and workshop topics were led by U.S. and Chinese experts from the business, law and government sectors on topics including the future of U.S.-China trade relations, legal reform, joint ventures and strategic alliances, pharmaceuticals, textiles and manufacturing, telecommunications, and aviation.

Asia and the Environment Roundtable

Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
December 1, 1996—February 1, 1998
Through an ongoing series of roundtable discussions, this project explored the scope of regional and global environmental threats emerging from industrializing Asia. Participants discussed issues such as the preservation of biodiversity in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia; compliance with international environmental treaties in India, China, and Japan; the environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam project; and the environmental records of China and Japan.

Hong Kong Forum

Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
October 1, 1996—June 30, 2001

The Hong Kong Forum seeks to promote the exchange of ideas and information between scholars and policymakers world-wide, and to foster better communication between the United States and China. As such, the Asia Studies program has formed a partnership with the Forum, through which six Council fellows speak to their membership in Hong Kong each year on relevant topics. Elizabeth Economy, Adam Segal, and Stephen Flynn are among the most recent fellows who have spoken for the Forum.

Study Group on Constructive Engagement with China

Chair: Michel Oksenberg
Staff: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
November 1, 1995—October 1, 1996
This study group evaluated Chinese participation in a range of international regimes and assessed the implications of its behavior for U.S. policy interests, focusing on ten issue areas of critical importance to the United States: human rights, telecommunications, environment, energy, security, the United Nations, civil aviation, legal reform, trade and investment, and banking and finance. The study group report, Shaping U.S.-China Relations: A Long-Term Strategy, sheds light both on the continuity in Chinese leaders' overarching foreign policy goals, strategies, and tactics and on the changes China has made in adapting its domestic institutions and policies to the demands of the international community. It articulates the ways in which the U.S. administration's policy of constructive engagement has influenced Chinese behavior at the domestic and international levels, and provides a set of recommendations as to whether the United States and its allies should continue to pursue this policy, how it might be modified to better serve U.S. interests, and whether an alternative policy altogether would be more effective. An edited volume with all ten case studies will be published in fall 1997.

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

CFR Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press/Panels

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. 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.