China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous social costs. In December 2015, as levels of PM2.5—the deadliest airborne particles—were forecast to be more than twenty times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization, the Beijing municipal government issued its first-ever red alert for pollution (the most serious on a four-tier system), closing schools and restricting the number of cars on the road. Amidst mounting public frustration, Chinese leaders seem to be taking a more proactive stance toward pollution and other environmental problems. To what extent does environmental degradation create challenges for China’s rise on the world stage? Is the government response thus far sufficient to the challenges at hand? What does all this mean for the prospect of governance reform in China?
To answer these and other questions, I am joined by Dr. Judith Shapiro, director of the Masters degree program in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at American University’s School of International Service, and Dr. Dali Yang, William C. Reavis Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.