Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


International Studies




China has risen from the subject of Western neo-colonialism to a rising hegemon that is beginning to buck the U.S.’s monopoly of the Asia-Pacific arena. Traditionally, Chinese society spurned the economic elite, Confucian-era businessmen made up the lowest social class. This view promoted by Mao Zedong, who stripped property holders of their assets to transition to a state-led economic system and led the country straight into a severe economic depression. It was only after the reform and opening policies of Deng Xiaoping, that China was able to recognize its economic potential. Since these policies were enacted, China’s impressive economic growth has allowed it to revolutionize its population, transforming its agrarian society into one of the world’s largest consumer bases.

However, China’s rapid economic growth has come at a high cost. It’s incredible demand for modernization has caused widespread deforestation, severe pollution and dehydration of waterways, and some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world. China has severe environmental problems that not only decrease its quality of life, but also may make its economic growth, which is the basis of its government’s legitimacy, difficult to maintain. In order to fully grasp the aims and ability of a rising China, we need to understand the problems that it faces from within. Because of its rapid industrialization, the Chinese are facing a severe environmental crisis that they are unlikely to solve unless strong, immediate action is taken in the form of policies aimed at sustainability.