Despite its name, the Great Wall of China began as a series of smaller, isolated defensive fortifications. Those structures grew and were later unified into the imposing structure that exists today.
The Great Wall is a great metaphor for the Chinese economy. By empowering regional governments to pursue economic development, and rewarding officials on that basis, the country as a whole has been transformed into an entrepreneurial and industrial powerhouse. Case in point: China’s economy enjoyed a sustained growth rate of 10 percent between 1979 and 2010, and the International Monetary Fund projects that it will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by the end of 2014. But as the Great Wall exemplifies the great feats of Chinese unity, so too does it reflect a tradition of environmental subjugation for national gain.
Harvard Business School professor William C. Kirby has long been following and chronicling the rising superpower’s complicated relationship with Mother Nature. His new case study, China’s Environmental Challenge, tells of a great nation at a critical crossroad: moving toward leading the world’s markets