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29 Seton Hall L. Rev. 235 (1998-1999)


Environmental law and theories of statutory interpretation have developed side by side in the United States during the past twenty-five years. Many of the leading environmental law cases are also statutory interpretation cases. China is different. China has enacted many environmental statutes, often patterned after foreign laws such as those in the United States, but there are no Chinese environmental law statutory interpretation cases.

This article examines why there are no such cases, and what we may learn from that fact. I am indebted to the work of Professor Stewart, whose engaging article in this symposium issue combines three of my own, seemingly distinct interests: environmental law, statutory interpretation, and China.

In Part II, I begin with an overview of the environmental problems facing China, the evolving role of law in China, and the environmental statutes enacted by China in recent years. Part III examines why cases disputing the meaning of environmental statutes are so rare in China. Drawing from Professor Stewart's observations about Chinese environmental law, I explain that many of the reasons that such disputes do not occur in China concern the structure of the Chinese government, the pressures against enforcement of environmental laws, the nature of the Chinese economy, and the Chinese tradition of resolving disputes without litigation. These reasons offer lessons to both China and the United States about the nature of environmental law and statutory interpretation. China needs to develop methods to enforce its environmental laws more aggressively; the United States needs to find other ways besides litigation to resolve many environmental disputes. The statutory interpretation rules applied by each nation can help determine whether either goal will be achieved.



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