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Reviewed by:
  • The China Environment Yearbook, Volume 2, Changes and Struggles
  • Herman F. Huang (bio)
Dongping Yang, editor. The China Environment Yearbook, Volume 2, Changes and Struggles. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008. xxv, 375 pp. Hardcover $148.00, ISBN 978-90-04-16800-8.

China’s extraordinary economic expansion began in the 1980s and continues to this day. While many other countries were impacted by the global economic downturn in 2009, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 8.7 percent in 2009 and is forecast to grow by another 9.5 percent in 2010.1 Three decades of breakneck growth have left widespread environmental degradation in its wake. For example, the total cost of air and water pollution in China is estimated to be 5.8 percent of its GDP.2 In response to these conditions, the Chinese government established a target of reducing air and water pollution by 10 percent in its Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006–2010). Activists and concerned citizens are also calling for action to protect the environment.

Changes and Struggles examines the state of China’s environment in 2006 and the efforts of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the public to effect change. It is the second volume in the China Environment Yearbook series. (The first volume, The China Environment Yearbook [2005], Crisis and Breakthrough of China’s Environment, was previously reviewed in China [End Page 406] Review International. Volume 3 was published in 2009 and Volume 4 is expected to be published in 2010.) Changes and Struggles is the translation of Huanjing Lü Pi Shu 2006 Nian: Zhongguo de Huanjing de Zhuanxing yu Boyi ( 2006 ), edited by Yang Dongping ( ) and published in Beijing by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2006. Yang is a cofounder and vice president of the Friends of Nature, China’s first official environmental NGO. Altogether, the book has twenty-four contributors, including university faculty, NGO staff, and journalists.

The yearbook under review is composed of an introduction and twenty chapters. The introduction gives an overview of the book. The first chapter portrays 2006 as not only a year of continued rapid economic growth, but also a year of heightened environmental awareness and strengthened environmental protection policies. The remaining chapters are organized according to five parts: “The Environment and Society,” “Ecology,” “Water,” “Forests,” and “Appendix.”

Part 1 consists of nine chapters, most of which pertain to developments and initiatives in 2006. For instance, China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA, now Ministry of Environmental Protection) and National Bureau of Statistics launched a pilot program of green GDP accounting. It incorporates the costs of natural resource depletion and environmental degradation as a result of economic growth (chapter 2). New environmental legislation passed in 2006 included the Renewable Energy Law and Provisional Measures on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessments (chapter 5). The third chapter presents reflections by Pan Yue (vice minister of SEPA) on environmental consciousness, harmonious society, and socialism. The Beijing NGO Green Cross tested a model for building a “new socialist countryside” that integrates environmental management, economic development, and cultural development (chapter 8).

Among the other topics covered in part 1 are the need for new and more effective policies to address environmental problems in rural China (chapter 6) and an investigation of industrial pollution in rural villages and public reactions the pollution (chapter 7). Also discussed are environmental fiscal reform as a means of achieving environmental protection goals (chapter 4), newfound environmental awareness on the part of China’s film industry (chapter 9), and the history of international environmental NGOs in China (chapter 10).

In part 2, chapter 11 discusses the environmental impacts of the Three Gorges Dam and two proposed water diversion projects. Chapter 12 questions the effectiveness of fencing off grasslands and imposing grazing bans as techniques for controlling desertification in Inner Mongolia.

The four chapters in part 3 address water quality, water rights trading, and information transparency. In 2005, more than 320 million Chinese used unsafe water, and 96 percent of rural villages lacked sewage treatment (chapter 13). Despite years of efforts at controlling pollution in the Huai River Basin, water quality remains poor; a cooperative effort involving government agencies, NGOs...