Environmental politics of major powers: eu, U. S. and China

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Environmental politics of major powers: EU, U.S. and China


Lei Zhang



Academic Title:

Associate Professor

Home University(From):

Renmin University of China

Email Address:


本科生    本科生    本科生    硕士生    硕士生

Undergraduate    Undergraduate    Undergraduate    Master    Master



Lectures and discussions

(1)Attendance and participation 20%

(2) assignment and group report 80%

2 credits

Dr. Lei Zhang obtained her master and doctoral degrees in environmental management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and since 2002 she continued to work as teacher and researcher at Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University. She joined the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Renmin University of China as associate professor since 2009. As an environmental sociologist, her researches cover topics ranging from ecological modernization of rural industries in China, environmental risk management, governmental environmental auditing, governance of environmental flows, environmental information disclosure, sustainable consumption to food safety, etc. She teaches courses on environmental policy analysis and evaluation, environmental politics of superpowers and research methods in environmental science.

This course takes a look at the environmental politics of EU, China and the US at the start of the third millennium, against the background of globalizing environmental politics. The US is the current hegemonic power and arguably China will become so in a few decades. Both play a crucial role in current and future global environmental politics, not only with respect to global environmental change (such as contributing to and coping with the greenhouse effect, and dealing with international trade in waste), but also with respect to many domestic environmental agendas in other countries via, among others, the trade and environment agenda, the harmonization of standards, and foreign investments of US and Chinese multinationals. In order to understand how the EU, US and China affect, influence and co-construct global environmental politics, it is necessary to have a better understanding of both countries' domestic environmental politics and governance, which will be a core part of this course. While both aspire to (continued) global prominence, their domestic processes and dynamics of environmental politics are very different due to the nature of their political systems, their overall levels of economic development, demographic and natural conditions, and historical-cultural roots.

OBJECTIVES. By the end of course lectures (Part A), students will (i) gain an understanding of key features of domestic environmental politics in the EU, US and in China, including the role of state actors, the private sector, and civil society in constituting and challenging these politics; (ii) acquire insights on the ways in which these two mega-states are involved in and ‘dominate’ global environmental and related politics; and (iii) obtain a beginning appreciation of three leading theoretical approaches to the study of global environmental governance: World-Systems Theory, Global Environmental Politics/ International Relations, and the Sociology of Networks and Flows. Students who take the optional, extended course (Part B), also will (iv) become familiar with EU, US and Chinese involvements in one particular topic of the global environmental agenda; and (v) develop analytical skills through the application of one or more theoretical approaches to case study material on a specific topic.

*ntroduction: Comparative setting of US、EU and Chinese environmental politics;

  Theory: comparative and global environmental politics
*istorical perspectives on US environmental policy and politics
*U environmental politics and the political system
*lobal Environmental Politics/ International Relations Theory
*nvironmental Sociology of Networks and Flows
*orld-Systems Theory/Climate Change Politics
*ase study: Toxic trade linkages between US、EU and China
*ase study: China’s natural resource consumption
*onclusions: Future Prospects for Chinese、EU and US Environmental Politics

Required readings

1.Economy, E. (2004), "The Devil at the Doorstep," ch. 6 in The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future. (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press).
2.Falkner, R. (2005), "American Hegemony and the Global Environment," International Studies Review v 7, n 4, pp. 585 599.
3.Spaargaren, G., et al. (2006), "Introduction: Governing Environmental Flows in Global Modernity". Ch. 1 in Governing Environmental Flows: Global Challenges to Social Theory, eds. Spaargaren, G., et al. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
 1.DeSombre, E.R. (2005), "Understanding United States Unilateralism: Domestic Sources of U.S. International Environmental Policy". In The Global Environment: Institutions, Law, and Policy, 2nd ed., eds. R.S. Axelrod, et al. (Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly Press).
2.Andrews, R.N.L. (2006), "[U.S.] Environmental Policy in a Global Economy", ch. 15 in Managing the Environment, Managing Ourselves, 2nd ed. (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press).
 1.Jordan, A.J., Wurzel, R., Zito, A. and L. Bruckner(1998), “European governance and the transfer of ‘new’ environmental policy instruments (NEPIs) in the European Union”
1.Paterson, M. (2005), "Theoretical perspectives on international environmental politics". Ch. 3 In Palgrave Advances in International Environmental Politics, eds. M.M. Betsill, et al. (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave).
2.Downie, D.L. (2005), "Global Environmental Policy: Governance through Regimes". Ch. 4 In The Global Environment: Institutions, Law, and Policy, 2nd ed., eds. R.S. Axelrod, et al. (Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly Press).
1.Oosterveer, P. (2007), Global Governance of Food Production and Consumption; Issues and Challenges, (Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing). Ch’s 2 and 3.
 1.Oosterveer, P. (2007), Global Governance of Food Production and Consumption; Issues and Challenges, (Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing). Ch’s 2 and 3.
1.Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. (2002), "Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia". Available: http://www.ban.org/E-waste/technotrashfinalcomp.pdf.
2.Puckett, J. (2006), "High-tech's Dirty Little Secret". Ch. 20 in Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry (Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press),
1.Vermeer, E.B. (2007). Determining factors in China's fossil energy use and its environmental impact, Leiden University
2.Lieberthal, K., and M. Herberg (2006). "China’s Search for Energy Security: Implications for U.S. Policy", NBR Analysis, v17, n1 (April), National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle, USA.
1.Carter, N. T., and A.P J. Mol. (2006), "China and the Environment: Domestic and Transnational Dynamics of a Future Hegemon." Environmental Politics v15 n2, Pp. 330-44.
2.Friedman, T.L. (2007), "The Power of Green," New York Times Magazine, April 15. [cover article]

Recommended readings

1.Chasek, P.S. (forthcoming, 2007), "U.S. Policy in the UN Environmental Arena: Powerful laggard or Constructive Leader?", International Environmental Agreements, v7, n2 (September).
2.Chasek, P.S., et al. (2006), Global Environmental Politics, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview), ch's 1 and 2.
3.Jänicke, M. (2002), "The Political System's Capacity for Environmental Policy: the Framework for Comparison". Pp. 1-18 in Capacity-Building in National Environmental Policy, eds. Weidner, H. and M. Jänicke. (Berlin: Springer-Verlag).
1.McCright, A., and R. Dunlap. (2003), "Defeating Kyoto: American Conservative Movement's Impact on U.S. Climate Change Policy," Social Problems, v50, n3, Pp. 348-373.
1.Mol, Arthur P. J. (2003) 'Joint Environmental Policymaking in Europe: Between Deregulation and Political Modernization', Society & Natural Resources, 16:4, 335 - 348
1.Mol, A.P.J., and G. Spaargaren. (2006), "Toward a Sociology of Environmental Flows". Ch. 2 in Governing Environmental Flows, eds. Spaargaren, G., et al. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
1.U.S. Dept. of State. (2004), "U.S. Climate Change Policy" [fact sheet], November 19. Available:  http://www.state.gov/g/oes/rls/fs/2004/38641.htm
2.Yangtze Yan. (2006), "China Calls for Completing Post-Kyoto Talks by 2009". Gov.cn, November 16. Available: http://english.gov.cn/2006-11/16/content_443768.htm
3.Elkington, J., and J. Thorpe. (2007), "China's Elephant in the Room," ChinaDialogue.net, March 20. Available: http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/864-Climate-s-
1.Greenpeace China, various reports, press releases, etc. Available: http://www.greenpeace.org/china/en/
2.Raphael, C., & T. Smith. (2006), "Importing EPR for Electronic Equipment into the U.S.". Ch. 22 in Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry (Phila.: Temple Univ. Press).
1.Liu, J.G., and J. Diamond (2005), “China’s environment in a globalizing world”, Nature, v 435, June 30, pp. 1179-1186. Supplementary material available: journal/v435/n7046/suppinfo/ 4351179a.html>.
1.Mol, A.P.J. (2006), "Environment and Modernity in Transitional China: Frontiers of Ecological Modernization," Development and Change, v37 n1, Pp. 29 56.
2.Zhang, L., A.P.J. Mol and D.A. Sonnenfeld, (forthcoming, 2007) “The Interpretation of Ecological Modernisation in China” Environmental Politics.


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