This article provides an analysis of the environmental challenges presented by coastal development on the Chinese coast of the Yellow Sea, and, in particular, its effect on migratory shorebirds. It reflects on the rate of coastal development in China and its impact on intertidal wetlands, including what is being done, from a legal perspective, to address the declines. Existing regulatory measures are examined and it is argued that strategic environmental assessment needs to be given greater attention by the Chinese authorities. In addition, principles of conservation such as participatory management need to be fully embraced to empower local communities to restore degraded sites, monitor birdlife, and, where necessary, challenge inappropriate development activities through the courts. These initiatives, coupled with the eventual enactment of a new national wetland law in China, should strengthen the response to the threats and help arrest some of the declines in shorebird populations.