Yanzhong Huang, "Toxic Politics: China's Environmental Health Crisis and its Challenge to the Chinese State" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

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Popular discussions of China’s growth prospects often focus on the success or failure specific industries. They might address the challenges rising wages pose to the export manufacturing sector, or the emergence of the new data-fueled tech sector. But one of the most important determinants of a country’s long-run economic growth is human capital—the education and health of its people.

In Toxic Politics: China's Environmental Health Crisis and its Challenge to the Chinese State (Cambridge UP, 2020), Yanzhong Huang shows how China’s environmental problems have created a health crisis with long-run consequences. It then digs into the reasons why despite all the centralized power China’s leaders showed in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, these same leaders have found it difficult to address the country’s rampant air, water, and soil pollution. The institutional problems in the Chinese system highlighted by this book go far beyond the environmental sphere. This makes the book an excellent way to learn about the challenges China’s leaders face in any domain of policy implementation, whether it be pushing forward domestic economic reforms on their own initiative or implementing international agreements around trade and climate change.

Yanzhong Huang is a professor at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, where he directs the school’s Center for Global Health Studies. He is also a Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations and the founding editor of Global Health Governance: The Scholarly Journal for the New Health Security Paradigm. He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

Recommendation from Professor Huang: The Plague Year: America in the Time of COVID, by Lawrence Wright.

Recommendation from Peter Lorentzen: Scott Rozelle and Natalie Hell’s Invisible China on the failure of China’s educational system to serve the majority of its population.

Host Peter Lorentzen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new digital economy-focused Master's program in Applied Economics. His research examines the political economy of governance and development in China.

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