China’s Environmental Challenges and Implications for the World

Journal or Book Title: Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology

Keywords: China; world, envionment; economic development; sustainability; coupled human and natural systems

Volume/Issue: 40/9

Page Number(s): 823-851

Year Published: 2010


After three decades of exceptional economic growth, China has become a global economic powerhouse. As the economy has grown, though, so have China’s environmental challenges, causing enormous socioeconomic consequences for China and the rest of the world. The global financial crisis has prompted China to create more domestic demand for consumption and implement massive infrastructure construction.

Although China has the second-largest total gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, its per capita GDP is still much lower than per capita GDP of developed countries: there is much room for further increase in GDP and consequent environmental challenges. Despite China’s many efforts to protect the environment and improve resource use efficiency, increasing environmental pollution and resource scarcity have become a severe bottleneck for sustainable development. Because of China’s size, these and other challenges and opportunities have huge implications for the world. However, literature related to China’s various environmental challenges and rapid changes is scattered. In this article, we outline China’s socioeconomic transformation, synthesize China’s environmental challenges and their interrelationships, illustrate impacts of environmental challenges on human well-being in China and beyond, and offer a systems approach to addressing environmental sustainability.

DOI: 10.1080/10643389.2010.502645

Type of Publication: Journal Article