Washington International Law Journal


As China undergoes the fastest economic development in the history of the world, so too has its environmental problems shattered all precedents. While China’s leaders recognize they must change course, environmental concerns have long taken a back seat to economic development. Soil pollution is destroying China’s environment, affecting public health, and reducing the country’s food supply. Soil pollution slows China’s economic development, preventing land development in urban centers. Soil pollution also threatens China’s social stability because it has inspired marginalized groups to organize in protest of environmental conditions. Environmental remediation, or the obligations of a facility or the government to clean up land contaminates, is essential in China. But China’s environmental remediation laws are ambiguous, poorly enforced, and often entirely unobserved. In order to respond to these challenges, the central government needs to develop a remediation scheme that: 1) requires strict liability to remediate soil pollution with appropriate exceptions; 2) evaluates the degree of remediation needed for a particular site; 3) utilizes the cadre system’s promotion targets to ensure enforcement; and 4) promotes more public transparency to relieve the public’s anxiety. These changes will serve both environmental and economic interests.

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