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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

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

Article

By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest Is Changing The World

Authors: Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael A. Levi
All China Review

Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore how Chinese demand drive global commodity prices, the broader implications of the Chinese slowdown for the global economy and regional security, and consequences of China’s resource quest for the world’s resource-producing states and industries.

See more in China; Financial Markets; Environmental Policy

Article

With Lack of Major Breakthroughs in U.S.-China Relations, the Small Things Matter

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
World Politics Review

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.

See more in China; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Article

China Wakes Up to Its Environmental Catastrophe

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
BusinessWeek

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.

See more in China; Pollution

Article

China’s Environmental Future: The Power of the People

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy
McKinsey Quarterly

The costs of China's deep and enduring environmental crisis are growing, yet Beijing's response to the country's environmental challenges has been far from sufficient. Increasingly, the Chinese people are pushing the government to do more to protect the environment, and Beijing must rise to the occasion, says Elizabeth Economy.

See more in China; Energy and Environment; Environmental Policy; Politics and Strategy

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

Symposium

The Future of China

Panelists Elizabeth C. Economy

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

, Merriden Varrall

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

, Yanzhong Huang

Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations

, Leon Berkelmans

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


Presider Joseph Kahn

Foreign Editor, New York Times

April 21, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen Watch

Meeting ⁄ Washington

The China Challenge: Balancing Cooperation and Competition

Speakers Jin-Yong Cai

Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, International Finance Corporation

, Madeleine K. Albright

Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group

, David M. Cote

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Honeywell

, Jon Huntsman

Chairman, Atlantic Council

, 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


Presiders Elizabeth C. Economy

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

, Elizabeth C. Economy

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


Introductory Speakers Henry M. Paulson

Chairman, Paulson Institute

, 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

Speakers Elizabeth C. Economy

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

, Elizabeth C. Economy

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


Moderators Irina A. Faskianos

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

, 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

Speakers Elizabeth C. Economy

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

, Elizabeth C. Economy

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


Moderators Irina A. Faskianos

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

, 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

, 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


Presiders James M. Lindsay

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

, 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

, 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


Presiders Richard N. Haass

President, Council on Foreign Relations

, 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, 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
Presiders Thomas R. KeeneEditor-at-Large, Bloomberg News, 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

, Elizabeth C. Economy

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

, Joshua Kurlantzick

Fellow for Southeast Asia


Presiders Bernard Gwertzman

Consulting Editor, CFR.org

, 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

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

, 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


Presiders Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

This meeting is not for attribution.

Press/Panels