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Incidents of animal abuse in China attract worldwide media attention. Is China culturally inclined to animal cruelty, or is the country’s development strategy a better explanation? This article addresses the subject of animal protection in China, a topic that has been ignored for too long by Western China specialists. A review of ancient Chinese thought asks whether China lacks a legacy of compassion for animals. The article then considers how China’s reform politics underlie the animal welfare crisis. Through its discussion of the welfare crisis impacting nonhuman animals in China, this paper sheds light on the enormity of the country’s animal protection challenge. It concludes with an optimistic prediction for the future, despite the obstacles that remain in the way of animal protection policy change.


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