Ecological modernization narratives and long lists of dire statistics dominate both scholarly work on and popular understandings of human–environment relationships in China. Political ecology offers a powerful alternative framework to conceptualize the environment as shaped by political economy, power and politics rather than being primarily a technical matter. This chapter reviews key themes in political ecological scholarship work on China to date, including debates about the effects of de-collectivization and market reform on agrarian and pastoral environments; protected areas as well as urban ‘greening’ efforts as forms of dispossession and capital accumulation; analysis of why industrial pollution persists despite public awareness; hydropower; and environmental activism. China’s particular place in the world economy and geopolitical order suggests a number of contributions that further study can make to political ecology more generally. At the same time, the chapter explores why Chinese-language scholarship on political ecology today remains relatively limited.