Washington International Law Journal


With a substantial population and continued exponential economic growth, China is perceived as exerting ever-increasing pressure on its natural environment. The concept of sustainable development has been posited by many in the international community as a means of overcoming China's bleak environmental outlook, while simultaneously preserving its economic prosperity. However, because of widespread disagreement as to the precise nature, scope, and practical application of sustainable development, the concept remains elusive and has proven difficult to implement. In its most basic form, sustainable development seeks to simultaneously meet environmental, economic, and social needs. With respect to these needs, China has affirmed that continuing its rapid economic expansion is paramount. Oregon State is recognized as a sustainability leader in the United States, and is rapidly becoming the gateway through which China and other developing nations are discovering sustainable development. China, in particular, has expressed interest in studying Oregon's sustainability practices. A critical analysis of Oregon's sustainability practices further reinforces the ambiguity that inheres in the concept of sustainable development and its accompanying inability to produce meaningful results. Worse, replication of sustainable development practices in China, as envisioned by Oregon and others in the international community, could lead to results that contravene China's stated best interests. Accordingly, China should resist international pressure to commit further resources to this elusive concept and should instead continue to pursue its recent path of economic and social reform.

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