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Reviewed by:
  • The China Environment Yearbook: Volume 3, Crises and Opportunities
  • Herman F. Huang (bio)
Yang Dongping, editor. The China Environment Yearbook: Volume 3, Crises and Opportunities. Leiden: Brill, 2009. xxiii, 281 pp. Hardcover $169.00, isbn 978-90-04-17349-1.

China's extraordinary economic expansion began in the 1980s and continues to this day. While many other countries are slowly recovering from the recent global economic downturn, China's gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to grow by 9.5 percent in 2010.1 Three decades of phenomenal 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 Repeated pollution incidents over the years have harmed local residents' health and livelihood. In mid-2010, an accident at a copper processing plant in Fujian Province sent acidic wastewater into a river, killing thousands of fish. Police detained three company officials, and the county's head of environmental protection resigned.3 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 taking action to protect the environment.

The China Environment Yearbook, Volume 3, Crises and Opportunities examines the state of China's environment in 2007 and discusses the activities undertaken by government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the public to address environmental problems. (The first and second volumes of the China Environment Yearbook series were previously reviewed in China Review International.) This book is the translation of Huanjing lü pi shu: Zhongguo huanjing de weiji yu zhuanji (2008) (环境绿皮书: 中国环境的危机与转机 [2008]), edited by Yang Dongping 杨东平 and published in Beijing by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2008. Yang is cofounder and president of the Friends of Nature, China's first official environmental NGO. Altogether, the book has twenty-two contributors, including university faculty, graduate students, NGO staff, and journalists.

This yearbook is composed of an introduction, sixteen unnumbered chapters, and an appendix. The introduction establishes the context of China's main environmental issues in 2007. The first chapter, aptly titled "China's Long Green March: Crises and Opportunities," serves as an overview of the book. The remainder of the book is organized into five parts: "Water Crisis," "Climate Change," "Urban Environment," "Public Policy and Public Participation," and "Appendix."

Part 1 consists of three chapters focusing on rural and urban water quality. An algae bloom in Taihu Lake (Jiangsu Province) prompted public questioning of the prevailing economic development model and government implementation of pollution prevention and treatment measures (Zhang Ke, pp. 39–52). Jiang Mingzhuo discusses pollution of city water supplies and recommends countermeasures (pp. 53–61). Wang Yongchen (pp. 63–77) explores the Yangtze River's ecological [End Page 576] problems, including the overexploitation of hydropower resources, the decline of biodiversity, and the impact of the Three Gorges Dam.

In part 2, Liu Haiying examines the impact of climate change on China and how NGOs have reacted (pp. 81–97). China was affected by many extreme weather events in 2007, among them heavy rainfalls, snowstorms, droughts, heat waves, and typhoons (Huang Lei, pp. 99–111). Fu Tao cites examples of international and Chinese NGO activities to combat climate change (pp. 113–123). Although most Chinese ages twenty-one to forty are aware of the causes and consequences of climate change, their attitudes toward the acquisition of houses and cars suggest a lack of concern (Zhang Kejia, pp. 125–133).

The four chapters in part 3 contain case studies of improving the urban environment. Activities undertaken to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games a "Green Olympics" included downsizing stadiums, reducing air pollution, opening new subway lines, and restricting vehicle use (Li Jiao, pp. 137–151). Feng Yongfeng states that "Beijing should take the golden opportunity of the Olympics, revise its strategies on environmental improvement and ecological restoration, launch a series of activities, shape new values and concepts, and establish effective mechanisms for building an eco-city" (p. 153). Enhanced efforts to conserve energy and reduce emissions in the industrial sector are showing results, but much remains...