While China’s rise is often viewed through its wide-ranging political and economic effects on the world, its growing impacts on the physical planet will leave a more permanent legacy. In his new book, The Devouring Dragon, Craig Simons argues that China’s growing consumer demands have pushed China from being a small player in global resource consumption to its most voracious participant in just a decade. China’s transition is already having massive impacts on the environment. China has become the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas, the top consumer of wildlife, and the largest importer of tropical timber. Yet the nation of 1.3 billion people remains relatively poor and all the consumer trends point skyward. In his book, Simons travels the world – to Papua New Guinea, northern India, Denmark, Colorado, and across China – to examine how China’s demands are leading to unsustainable logging, increasing global warming, and contributing to a biodiversity crises. Speaking with scientists, politicians, advocates, and average citizens, he charts how China’s rebirth has sharply raised our planetary metabolism and why China’s harmful impacts will continue to escalate.

Drawing on his travels and research, some of it done as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Mr. Simons’ presentation at The Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum will chart China’s widening impacts on the earth and will argue that those impacts require a coordinated approach to address the problems. He will also discuss the roots of China’s environmental crisis and why Beijing is unlikely to stem the damage unless the Communist Party commits to allowing a more robust civil society. 

For a recent Q&A with the author on the book, click here.


  • Craig Simons

    Former Asia bureau chief for Cox Newspapers and Newsweek China correspondent