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Natural Infrastructure in China’s Era of Ecological Civilization

Monday, October 19, 2020 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Virtual Event

Speaker: Emily T. Yeh is Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder

Abstract: Although infrastructure is conventionally thought of in reference to human-designed systems such as railroads, pipelines, tunnels, and ports, landscapes, and nature itself are also increasingly being understood as infrastructure through terms such as “natural infrastructure” and “green infrastructure,” which tend to focus on the concept of ecosystem services.  Taking an infrastructural lens onto natural infrastructure projects in the context of Xi Jinping’s call for ecological civilization, this paper argues that new calculative tools obscure the profoundly political nature of ecological red lines and ecological functional zones, which effectively enframe China’s national territory as an object of optimization.  The paper then explores a specific aspect of the project of ecological civilization: campaigns to dismantle and destroy infrastructure deemed to be in violation of environmental regulations. I theorize this as a form of “destructive production” of natural infrastructure and provide two case studies of the dismantling of scenic areas not long after their reconstruction following the Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan. 

Bio: Emily T. Yeh is Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA. She is the author of Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development, and co-editor of Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands, and Rural Politics in Contemporary China.

Faculty host: John (Jack) Zinda, Developmental Sociology

Co-sponsored by Cornell Department of Global Development

and The Polson Institute for Global Development

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Development Sociology, East Asia Program, Global Learning, Asian & Asian American Center, China and Asia-Pacific Studies, Cornell China Center





Cornell Contemporary China Initiative
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Amala Lane


Emily Yeh

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University of Colorado, Boulder

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