Developmental Environmentalism: State Ambition and Creative Destruction in East Asia’s Green Energy Transition

Elizabeth Thurbon, Sung Young Kim, Hao Tan, John Mathews

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Why has East Asia emerged as the global leader in green energy industries but - until recently - lagged on carbon emission reduction? What is new and distinctive about East Asia’s approach to the green energy transition? And what does this approach mean for the world? Developmental Environmentalism provides the first comprehensive account of East Asia’s green energy shift. It highlights the powerful and symbiotic role of state ambition, geostrategic competition, and capitalist market dynamics in driving forward the region’s greening efforts. Through an analysis of the ambitious national strategies of China and South Korea, the authors show how state actors have pursued a distinctively East Asian approach to transforming their energy systems, involving first the rapid creation of new green energy industries and then the coordinated destruction of fossil-fuel incumbencies. This approach - described as ‘Developmental Environmentalism’ - is aimed at establishing East Asian economies as leaders in the green industries of the future, while at the same time addressing the pressing environmental, social and political problems associated with the carbon-intensive industries of the past. By developing four detailed, longitudinal case studies of green industry creation and fossil-fuel phase out in China and Korea, the authors identify the key successes and failures of East Asia’s green shift to date and anticipate its most likely future trajectory. Based on their findings, the authors reject the idea that East Asia’s greening strategies are mere exercises in ‘greenwashing’ or fossil-fuelled ‘business as usual’. Rather, there is something fundamentally transformative underway in the region at the level of elite ideation, strategic ambition, and policy action; the green energy shift represents much more than continuity in Asia’s erstwhile developmental states. To execute their analysis, the authors synthesise insights from cutting-edge Developmental State and Schumpeterian theorising. They show how state actors in East Asia are engaging in a sophisticated kind of economic statecraft, strategically harnessing the capitalist market dynamics of ‘creative-destruction’ to advance their transformative green ambitions through green growth. They also assess the implications of developmental environmentalism for developed and developing countries, and the future of the global green shift in an era of geostrategic rivalry.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages252
ISBN (Electronic)9780191924224
ISBN (Print)9780192897794
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)
  • General Business,Management and Accounting


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