Charles McElwee

China’s environmental laws use elements from green laws in Europe, the US and Japan, but the result is uniquely Chinese, writes environmental lawyer Charles McElwee in ChinaDialogue.

While China’s environmental law regime comprises a set of national laws and regulations similar to many western models, it is important to understand that the Chinese tend to define the fundamental aspects of their environmental legislation in terms of a set of systems or principles, not individual national laws.

As Dr Yin Fucai of the Anhui province Environmental Protection Bureau has put it: “[i]n China, every environmental man knows eight environmental regulations and policies.” Or seven or ten depending on which “environmental man” you are talking to, but the perspective revealed by this statement is the same. Most observers seem to ascribe to the notion that there are “three principles” (such as “polluter pays”) and at least seven generally accepted “management rules” (for instance the “Three Simultaneous” system – which requires that a facility and its mandated pollution control measures are designed, constructed, and placed into operation at the same) at the core of China’s environmental regulatory scheme.

These principles and regimes were formulated primarily during the three national environmental-protection conferences in 1973, 1983 and 1989 andset forth in the statements summarising the conference discussions. All of them were incorporated into the 1989 version of the Environmental Protection Law, and other laws and regulations adopted subsequently.

More in China Dialogue

 Charles McElwee is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch.

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