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.
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.
U.S. diplomats and policymakers need to think creatively about how best to harness the United States’ inherent advantages in South and Central Asia and thereby offset China’s overwhelming financial investments and diplomatic initiatives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Meeting ⁄ New York
John B. Hurford Memorial Lecture: U.S. Strategy in Asia: Is the Pivot Working?
SpeakersKurt 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
The Presidential Inbox: China’s Leadership Transition
SpeakersElizabeth 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 PresiderThomas R. KeeneEditor-at-Large, Bloomberg News
February 22, 201312:30–1:00 p.m. - Lunch 1:00–2:00 p.m. - Meeting
SpeakersEdward 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 PresiderSebastian 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, 20096:00–6:30 p.m. - Reception 6:30–7:30 p.m. - Meeting
2008 Rocky Mountain Roundtable on International Relations: Luncheon Discussion: Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the Next Administration
SpeakersMadeleine 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 PresiderRichard N. HaassPresident, Council on Foreign Relations