In the post-Mao era, one highly significant dimension of China's official programme of reform and integration into the international economy has been a commitment to legal construction. This commitment has included a sustained effort to fashion a basic corpus of environmental protection law alongside supportive institutions, administrative norms and policies, in order to create a “basic legal system of environmental protection” (huanjing baohu de jiben falii zhidu).' In the eyes of the authorities in the People's Republic of China, such efforts reflect a degree of environmental concern that is unusually strong for a developing society.2 China's achievements, we are often told, must be placed in the context of the considerable difficulties the PRC faces in terms of the pressing need to raise living standards, a serious problem of over-population, a shortage of natural resources, an outdated industrial infrastructure and poor industrial management.3 Of course, viewed comparatively, the PRC's embrace of environmental protection law was somewhat belated,4 only properly commencing after its participation in the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm. The subsequent expansion of environmental legislation and enforcement has been some-what erratic. Nevertheless, there appears to be a continuing intent to fashion a substantial body of environmental law, and concern with the construction and revision of this was further enhanced by China's participation in the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro. Following this, Premier Li Peng “made a commitment to conscientiously implement resolutions adopted at the Conference”5 and, given the PRC's very substantial size and population, a positive embrace of internationally acceptable standards of environmental welfare is highly significant for future global environmental protection. This article examines the principal features and significance of the PRC's domestic environmental protection law, and considers briefly the implications of the Chinese approach to environmental law for understanding the development of law more generally in post-Mao China.