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On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization

Peer-Reviewed Article
On the Development of China’s
Environmental Policies Towards an
Ecological Civilization
Efe Can Gürcan (Assoc. Prof., International Relations) is the Vice Dean of Research and Deve-
lopment for the Faculty of Economics, Administrative and Social Sciences at İstinye University.
He also serves as the Director of the Center for Belt and Road Studies at Istinye University and
Research Associate at the University of Manitoba’s Geopolitical Economy Research Group. Gürcan
completed his undergraduate education in International Relations at Koç University. He received
his master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Montréal and earned his PhD
in Sociology from Simon Fraser University. He speaks English, French, Spanish and Turkish. His
publications include four books as well as more than 30 articles and book chapters on international
development, international conict and cooperation, and political sociology, with a geographical
focus on Latin America and Eurasia. His latest (co-authored) book is “COVID-19 and the Future
of Capitalism: Postcapitalist Horizons Beyond Neoliberalism”.
Efe Can Gürcan
Assoc. Prof,
Departmant of International Relations, İstinye University
How to cite: Gürcan, E. C. (2021). On the development of China’s environmental policies
towards an ecological civilization.
Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly
, 2(3).7-25.
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
by populaton sze and fourth-largest by surface area.
Combned wth the excessve demographc and geog-
raphc sze s the contnued legacy of Western mpe-
ralsm n Chna as a former sem-colony, whose ne-
gatve eects are amplfed by current Western eorts
n geopoltcal and geo-economc contanment. s
adds to Chnas resource scarcty that acts as another
structural adversty constranng ts development po-
tental. Chna possesses only 7% of the worlds arable
land and freshwater resources and 8% of the world’s
natural resources, even though ts populaton repre-
sents 22% of the world’s populaton. Furthermore,
only 19% of ts surface area s sutable for human ha-
btaton and 65% of ts surface area s rugged, whch
severely crpples Chna’s farmng capabltes and fac-
ltates ethnc heterogenety as a potental mpedment
to poltcal coheson (Morton, 2006; Naughton, 2018).
What envronmental ssues occupy Chnas man development agenda? How does Chna address these
crucal ssues? In what drecton are Chna’s envronmental polces evolvng? e present artcle uses
process tracng to answer these questons and argue that Chna has already developed a frm understan-
dng of ts envronmental problems and ther severty to the extent that t now frames them as a “matter
of survval” and has brought these ssues to the centre of ts revsed natonal securty strategy. Chna’s
strategy s predcated on an alternatve proposal for “ecologcal cvlzaton”, whch may potentally lead to
the reversal of “ecologcal mperalsm. Chna s n the early stages of buldng an ecologcal cvlzaton
and requres a lot of work to reach a hgh level of ecologcal development. Chnas key achevements on
the path towards ecologcal cvlzaton nvolve a seres of three unfoldng and mutually condtonng re-
volutonary processes that also lead the way n nternatonal envronmental cooperaton, as emboded n
Chnas role n ASEAN, the Asan Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Green Slk Road. ey nclude
a clean energy revoluton, a sustanable agrcultural revoluton, and a green urban revoluton. Chna has
already become a global leader n green fnance. It leads the eco-cty movement, wth over 43% of the wor-
ld’s eco-ctes beng Chnese, and s the second leader n sustanable archtecture, next to Canada. Many
Chnese ctes have dropped down or out of the lst of the most polluted ctes, leavng Inda and Pakstan
at the top. Chna’s ctes have also joned the ranks of those wth the strongest sewage treatment capacty
n the world. In addton, Chna has the most electrc vehcles, bkes, and ecent publc transportaton.
Chna s consdered to be not only the world’s centre of electrc bus producton and consumpton but also
as havng ctes wth the worlds longest subway systems. From 2013 onwards, the share of coal n Chnas
total energy consumpton has seen a notceable declne, accompaned by the ncreasng share of renewab-
le resources n total energy consumpton as a result of conscous eorts at a clean energy revoluton. Key
to ths revoluton n the makng s Chna’s strong reputaton as the worlds top nvestor n clean energy.
As such, t has succeeded n creatng the world’s largest wnd, solar, and hydroelectrc systems for power
generaton. Fnally, concernng Chna’s unfoldng revoluton n sustanable agrculture, one should ack-
nowledge, not only ts adopton of green food standards and the expanson of ts agrcultural area under
certfed organc farmng but especally the fact that, as a world leader n green agrculture, t now ranks
thrd n the lst of countres wth the largest agrcultural area under organc farmng.
Keywords: Eco-ctes; eco-farmng; ecologcal cvlzaton; energy revoluton; green fnance
Despte such adverstes, Chna has come to de-
velop an exemplary model of economc development
that nspres much of the developng world. e 1979-
2018 perod testfed to an average growth rate of 9.4%
n the lead of the Communst Party of Chna (CPC),
whch made Chna the world’s second-largest eco-
nomy, top producer, and the leadng exporter of tech-
nologcal goods (X. Hu, 2020). By 2015, Chna came
to assume the global producton of 40% of washng
machnes, 50% of textles, 60% of buttons, 70% of
shoes, 80% of televsons, and 90% of toys. Recently,
Chna has made sgnfcant progress n the producton
of added hgher-value products n computer, avaton,
and medcal technology sectors, among others. Bes-
des ts hstorc success n economc growth, ndustral
producton and technologcal development, the Ch-
nese economc mracle s credted for 70% of global
poverty eradcaton between 1990 and 2015 (Gard-
ner, 2018).
e huge ecologcal cost of such a fast-paced and
dramatc development –unprecedented n the hs-
tory of human cvlzaton– s nothng but expected.
Accordng to 2009 estmates, the annual economc
cost of envronmental polluton amounts to 3.8%
of Chnas Gross Domestc Product (GDP) (Zhang,
2014:32-48). Over 80% of Chnas underground and
rver water resources are no longer ft for human use
due to polluton (Je, 2016). Land polluton and sol
eroson are also part of Chna’s major envronmen-
tal problems. It s common knowledge that excessve
use of pestcdes and ndustral polluton consttute a
major source of land polluton, promptng the loss of
organc matter and sol eroson. 2013 estmates sug-
gest that close to 20% of Chna’s cultvated farmland
suers from contamnaton and 38% of the sol s sub-
jected to eroson-related loss of nutrent and organc
matter (Scott et al., 2018:26; Gardner, 2018:9). Inde-
ed, the contracton of arable land s a natural result
of sol contamnaton and eroson. s also explans
Chnas over 4% loss of arable land between 1990 and
2018, from 124,481,000 to 119,488,700 hectares (FAO,
2021; Fgure 1).
Chna beng the world’s largest pestcde producer
and consumer exacerbates ths tendency. In the 1990-
2018 perod alone, Chna’s pestcde use rose by 129%
(FAO, 2021; see Fgure 2). Furthermore, 70% of the
world’s electronc waste s recycled n Chna at the ex-
pense of envronmental and publc health. Industral
polluton, envronmentally detrmental recyclng pra-
ctces, and ndustral agrculture combned to create
Chnas “cancer vllages” (Gardner, 2018). Map 1 pro-
vdes a more detaled outlne of Chna’s major env-
ronmental problems (Sanjuan, 2018).
Figure 1. China’s arable land (1000 ha)
Figure 2. China’s pesticides use (tonnes)
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological CivilizationEfe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
Global envronmental ndcators provde a gene-
ral pcture of the envronmental queston’s severty n
Chna. To elaborate, the Envronmental Performance
Index (EPI) s a popular ndcator to assess the mpact
of natonal polces on the envronment. EPI s made
up of two major components: envronmental health
and ecosystem vtalty. Envronmental health looks
at the negatve mpact of envronmental polluton on
human health as well as ar and water qualty and san-
taton. In turn, ecosystem vtalty focuses on varables
such as carbon ntensty, bodversty, fsh stocks, fo-
rest cover, wastewater treatment, and ntrogen balance
(Envronmental Performance Index, 2020a).
Chnas EPI can be compared to other BRICS
(Brazl, Russa, Inda, Chna, South Afrca) count-
res, representatve of the leadng developng count-
res, and the Unted States (US), as the hegemonc
leader of the captalst-mperalst system. A compa-
rson for the perod 2010-2020 shows that Chna has
acheved the second-largest ncrease n EPI scores
(8.4 EPI ponts) aer South Afrca (8.5 EPI ponts),
whch testfes to Chnas successful eorts at m-
provng ts envronmental standng (Table 1). In the
same 10-year perod, Inda has recorded no vsble
mprovements, whle the ncrease n EPI scores for
Brazl, Russa, and the US are 4.9, 3.9 and 2.9, respe-
ctvely. In the meantme, one should note that Ch-
nas 2020 standng s 120 out of all the 180 countres
ncluded n EPI. Chnas 2020 score s 37.3, whch
outranks Inda wth an EPI score of 27.6. However,
Chna s outranked by Brazl, Russa, South Afrca,
and the US, whose annual scores are 51.2, 50.5, 43.1,
and 69.3, respectvely (Table 1). Overall, ths compa-
rson reveals that Chna has exhbted a strong env-
ronmental wll and acheved polcy success between
2010 and 2020, even though t contnues to struggle
wth severe envronmental problems (Envronmen-
tal Performance Index, 2020b).
Map 1. China’s enviromental constraints and risks
Ecologcal footprnt s another global envron-
mental ndcator. It s popularly used to assess the
human mpact on an envronment by by reference
to changng natural resource demands for countres
across the world. Wth ecologcal footprnt, the use
of ecologcal resources s compared wth the sze of
bologcally productve land and sea area to estma-
te the earths capacty to renew the natural resources
and absorb waste (Robbns, 2007:509-10). Not surpr-
sngly, the ecologcal footprnt of Chna –as a rapdly
developng country– has known a constant ncrease,
partcularly n the 2000s (Fgure 3).
Ar polluton stands out, perhaps, as the most
vsble envronmental stran n Chna, whch s why
t s worth supplementng our analyss of EPI and
ecologcal footprnt wth what s popularly known
as fne partcles, or partculate matter 2.5 (PM.).
Avalable data allow us to comparatvely assess the
performance of the BRICS countres and the US
concernng the percentage of the natonal popula-
ton exposed to PM. levels exceedng the World
Health Organzaton (WHO) gudelne value. One
strkng fact that emerges from ths comparson s
the successful performance of the US and Brazl, un-
lke Chna and other countres n our sample. e
US and Brazl’s PM.performance declned from
91.92% and 46.68% and from 68.12% and 3.34%,
respectvely (World Bank, 2021, Fgure 4). Even
though Chna faled to exhbt a successful perfor-
mance by 2017, ts post-2017 performance oers
promsng prospects. Recently, for example, Chnese
ctes used to occupy the forefront of the lst of the
world’s most polluted ctes. Lookng at the 2020 lst
of the feen most polluted ctes, however, t s now
beng occuped by Indan and Pakstan ctes. e
only Chnese cty that s ranked among the top fe-
en polluted ctes s Hotan (Earth.Org, 2021, IQAr,
2021; Zhang, 2014).
Chna has been undergong a sustanable ur-
ban revoluton, whch actually extends beyond
the fght aganst ar polluton. It s strkng to no-
tce how Chnas daly capacty of urban sewage
treatment rose from 125 mllon tons to 182 ml-
lon tons n the perod 2010-2015. s elevates
Chna to be among the worlds strongest capacty
of urban sewage treatment (Chna-ASEAN Env-
ronmental Cooperaton, 2018). Moreover, Chna
has greatly mproved ts performance n urban
sustanablty by prortsng green archtecture
and transportaton. Accordng to the Leadershp
n Energy and Envronmental Desgn (LEED) ra-
tng system prepared by the US Green Buldng
Councl, Chna s the world’s second leader n sus-
tanable archtecture aer Canada (Long, 2015).
China 37.3 8.4 120
Brazil 51.2 4.9 55
Russia 50.5 3.9 58
India 27.6 0 168
South Africa 43.1 8.5 95
United States 69.3 2.9 24
Index (EPI)
Scores in 2020
Change in
EPI Scores
2020 EPI
(out of 180
Table 1. Environmental performance index
Figure 3. Ecological footprint of China
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
Chnas strong leadershp n sustanable urbansaton
can also be observed n ts emergence as the world’s
largest market for electrc vehcles and bkes (Statsta
2021; INSG 2014). As far as publc transportaton s
concerned, Chna s the world’s largest producer and
consumer of electrc buses (Technavo, 2019; Susta-
nable Bus, 2020; MarketsandMarkets, 2021). Further-
more, Chna has turned tself nto the world leader
n green transportaton, wth Bejng and Shangha
havng developed the worlds longest subway systems
(Nedopl Wang, 2019).
Evdently, Chna’s world-leadng envronmental
achevements go unnotced due to the prevalng ds-
course of “ecologcal mperalsm” n envronmental
poltcs. Ecologcal mperalsm descrbes the sh of
axs n global labour and natural resource explotaton
to the developng world at the expense of grave human
and ecologcal suerng. e economc and ecologcal
burden of ths axs sh s placed on the shoulders of
the developng world by Western metropoles, whch
essentally seek to reduce the cost of producton and
resource extracton (Gürcan, Kahraman, & Yanmaz,
2021). Indeed, ths phenomenon has been a defnng
feature n the entre hstory of captalsm. However,
the domnance of neolberalsm as a global polcy
paradgm snce the 1970s gave a new mpetus to eco-
logcal mperalsm, where Chna emerged as the man
target. s beng sad, Chna has refused to be vct-
msed by such polces and actvely took advantage of
the changng polcy envronment wthout fully aban-
donng ts socalst system, albet at grave ecologcal
and socoeconomc costs n the medum term. In ths
perod, Chna reled on the states strong gudance on
reform and openng-up to buld the “Chnese dream
of socalst welfare through gradual technology trans-
fers and jont ventures n the longer term.
It s common knowledge that Western captalsm
globalsed through exploraton and colonsaton at the
expense of grave human and ecologcal costs. ese
globalsng eorts were amplfed by the Industral Re-
volutons, whch eventually evolved nto mperalst r-
valres for spheres of nuence and world wars. A sub-
sequent wave of globalsaton began n the 1970s as the
world’s axs of producton shed to Asa, based on ne-
olberal polces that sought to take advantage of Asas
cheap labour supply and other resources n the absen-
ce of strct poltcal and envronmental regulatons.
For some tme, Western metropoles remaned content
wth Chnas accommodatng polces, only untl t
succeeded n usng the “prvlege of backwardness” to
consoldate ts natonal economy rather than become
a mere US colony governed by the World Bank and
the Internatonal Monetary Fund (IMF). Upon Ch-
nas hstorc economc success and the contnuaton of
the rule of the Communst Party of Chna (CPC), t
seems that Western metropoles ended up developng
a false sense of threat aganst ther global hegemony,
whch prompted them to launch a global campagn of
mperalst propaganda framng Chna as an envron-
mentally rresponsble vllan versus the West as the
vrtuous watchdog of envronmental values.
Figure 4. PM. air pollution, population exposed to
levels exceeding WHO guideline value (% of total)
s artcle seeks to transcend Western-centrc
ecologcal-mperalst bases towards Chna’s envron-
mental polces and provde a more balanced perspec-
tve. What envronmental ssues occupy Chna’s man
development agenda? How does Chna address these
crucal ssues? In what drecton are Chna’s envron-
mental polces evolvng? e present artcle uses pro-
cess tracng to answer these questons and argue that
Chna has already developed a frm understandng of
ts envronmental problems and ther severty to the
extent that t now frames them as a “matter of surv-
val” and has brought these ssues to the centre of ts
revsed natonal securty strategy, partcularly under
the Hu Jntao and X Jnpng admnstratons. Ch-
nas strategy s predcated on an alternatve proposal
for “ecologcal cvlzaton” (shengta wenmng,
文明), whch may lead to the reversal of “ecologcal
mperalsm. Partcularly notceable n ths regard s
Chnas ongong clean energy revoluton as well as ts
strong leadershp n green agrculture, urbansaton,
and multlateral envronmental cooperaton. Accor-
dngly, the present artcle s structured nto three sec-
tons. e frst focuses on the poltcal and deologcal
background of Chnas “ecologcal cvlzaton” project
and the second sheds lght on Chna’s clean energy re-
voluton. e artcle concludes wth the thrd secton
on Chnas achevements n green agrculture and eco-
logcal urbansaton, explanng how they are reected
n multlateral envronmental cooperaton.
The Poltcal and Ideologcal Background of
Ecologcal Cvlzaton
e frst uses of the term “ecologcal cvlzaton” can
be found n the Sovet Unon n the early 1980s. s
term was later adopted by Qanj Ye, a Chnese agr-
cultural economst, and brought nto ocal use by
the State Envronmental Protecton Admnstraton
(SEPA). In Chna, ecologcal cvlzaton ganed po-
pularty thanks to the eorts of the Hu Jntao adm-
nstraton (2003-2013) (Greene, n.d.; Pan, 2016:35). In
hs report to the 17 Natonal Congress of the CPC,
Hu put forth the noton of “harmonous socety” by
reference to Chna’s tradtonal phlosophcal concep-
ton of harmony between humans and nature (天人
合一思想) (Hu, 2007; Ktagawa, 2016a; Pan, 2016).
Hu’s (2007) conceptualsaton of “harmonous socety”
goes beyond socal equalty and justce to embrace the
“balance between urban and rural development, deve-
lopment among regons, economc and socal develop-
ment, relatons between man and nature, and domestc
development and openng to the outsde world. Wort-
hy of note s the degree to whch ths noton resonates
wth Mao Zedong’s deas of “balanced development”
and “socalsm wth Chnese characterstcs, as were
descrbed n hs speech “On Ten Great Relatonshps
(Mao, 1974).
Hu (2007) proposed a “Scentfc Outlook on
Development”, where harmonous socety can be
acheved wth a sustanable development model
that puts people and the envronment frst by mo-
blsng scence, technology, and educaton. Accor-
dng to Hu, energy conservaton and sustanable
development are central to mprovng the Chnese
populatons qualty of lfe. In ths framework, Hu
developed a “fve-n-one” strategy (五位一体) that
combnes the task of economc, poltcal, cultural,
and socal constructon wth that of ecologcal cvl-
zaton. s strategy emphasses how ecologcal sus-
tanablty and other tasks complement each other.
Accordng to Hu, energy conservaton
and sustanable development are
central to mprovng the Chnese
populaton’s qualty of lfe. Hu
developed a “fve-n-one” strategy that
combnes the task of economc, poltcal,
cultural, and socal constructon wth
that of ecologcal cvlzaton.
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
To elaborate, ecologcal sustanablty s an essental
requste for long-term economc growth for, wthout
t, the hgher goals of socal welfare and lfe qualty
cannot be attaned (Ktagawa, 2016b; Pan, 2016).
X Jnpngs ascendancy to power furthered the
strength of Hus emphass on harmonous socety
and ecologcal cvlzaton (X, 2018:233). In X’s
thought, the task of buldng an ecologcal cvlza-
ton consttutes the buldng block of the Chnese
dream, .e. “a dream of buldng Chna nto a well-
o socety n an all-round way and… a dream to
show the world Chna's commtment to makng a
greater contrbuton to the peace and development
of manknd” (X, 2018:179). As such, the CPC
adopted the task of buldng an ecologcal cv-
lzaton as a prorty task n 2012, added t to the
CPC consttuton, and mported t nto the Chnese
consttuton n 2018 (Goron, 2018:39).
X Jnpngs ascendancy to power led to the cre-
aton of the frst CCP organ specalsed n susta-
nablty: the “Task Force for the Promoton of Eco-
nomc Development and Ecologcal Cvlzaton. In
2015, the CPC Poltburo adopted the “Central Op-
non Document on Ecologcal Cvlzaton Cons-
tructon” n March 2015. As part of Chna’s new
centralsed envronmental nspectons, over 29,000
companes were penalsed wth fnes totallng 1.43
bllon RMB (US$216 mllon), 1,527 ndvduals
were detaned, and 18,199 ocals were subjected
to dscplnary acton (Goron, 2018:41). Ultma-
tely, the 19th Natonal Congress of the CPC held n
2017 set the goal of greenng and beautfyng Chna
based on the prncples of green development and
ecologcal-cvlzaton buldng (Chnadaly, 2017;
Yang, 2018).
Chna started to frame the envronmental ques-
ton as a matter of “state survval” n the X Jnpng
era, whch explans why ths queston occupes such
a strategc place n Chnas revsed natonal securty
strategy. In hs speech durng the frst meetng of
the Central Natonal Securty Commsson of the
CPC n 2013, X Jnpng announced Chnas new
“Holstc Natonal Securty Outlook”, whch cons-
ttutes the backbone of Chna’s current natonal se-
curty and dentfes 11 areas of prorty n natonal
securty. s sustanablty ncluded: poltcal secu-
rty, homeland securty, mltary securty, economc
securty, cultural securty, socetal securty, scen-
ce and technology securty, nformaton securty,
ecologcal securty, resource securty, and nuclear
securty. Subsequently, Chna publshed ts “Blue
Book on Natonal Securty” n 2014, desgnated as
the country’s frst blue book on natonal securty. A
landmark feature of ths book s how t extends the
scope of natonal securty to nclude envronmental
ssues as a defnng theme (Cor, 2018; Rak et al.,
“Made n Chna 2025”, Chnas new techno-n-
dustral strategy announced n 2015, s shaped by
X’s holstc conceptualsaton of natonal securty
and dentfes nne areas of prorty for economc
development. ese nclude enforcng green ma-
nufacturng, mprovng manufacturng nnovaton,
ntegraton between nformaton technology and
ndustry, strengthenng the ndustral base, foste-
rng Chnese brands, advancng restructurng of the
manufacturng sector, promotng servce-orented
Chna started to frame the
envronmental queston as a matter
of state survval” n the X Jnpng
era, whch explans why ths queston
occupes such a strategc place n
Chna’s revsed natonal securty
manufacturng and manufacturng-related servce
ndustres, and nternatonalsng manufacturng.
Accordng to the Made n Chna 2025 strategy, the
key to success n these tasks s n strategc sectors
such as “new nformaton technology, numercal
control tools and robotcs, aerospace equpment,
ocean engneerng equpment and hgh-tech shps,
ralway equpment, energy-savng and new energy
vehcles, power equpment, new materals, bolog-
cal medcne and medcal devces, and agrcultural
machnery” (Ma, et al., 2018; U.S. Department of
Defense, 2020).
Chna’s Clean Energy Revoluton n the
In 2009, Chna outranked the US as the worlds
largest energy consumer (Guo & Marnova 2014).
Chnese energy consumpton greatly contrbutes to
envronmental degradaton and clmate change. In
fact, 2016 estmates suggest that Chna exhbts a
better performance n constranng per capta car-
bon doxde (CO) emssons n comparson wth
the US, Russa, and South Afrca (World Bank,
2021; Fgure 5). s beng sad, Chna recorded the
hghest rse n per capta CO emssons (around
380%) n our sample for the 1980-2016 perod. e
US and Russa are the only countres that recorded a
successful decrease n per capta CO emssons (F-
gure 5). Moreover, Chnas 2018 performance reve-
als that coal consumpton accounts for the greatest
share of ts CO emssons (79.44%) as compared to
the 43.7% share of coal consumpton n the world’s
total CO emssons (EIA, 2021). e second-largest
share of Chna’s CO goes to ol and other lqud fu-
els (EIA, 2021). e remanng share concerns na-
tural gas.
Energy ntensty s an ndcator that reects per
capta energy consumpton. One could observe that
Chnas energy ntensty has been rapdly ncrea-
sng, partcularly snce 1997. e 1997-2018 per-
od alone testfed to an over 250% rse (EIA, 2021;
Fgure 6). Indeed, coal represents the man source
of Chnas energy consumpton, though Chnas
coal producton and consumpton have been vsbly
decreasng snce 2013. Between 2013-2019, Chnas
coal producton and consumpton have decreased
from 4.4 and 4.7 bllon short tonnes to 4.1 and 4.3
bllon short tonnes, respectvely. s correspon-
ds to a 7% declne n coal producton and an 8.5%
declne n coal consumpton (EIA, 2021; Fgure 7).
However, Chna’s ol consumpton has been rsng
snce 2013. e 2013-2019 perod alone recorded a
29.5% ncrease (EIA, 2021; Fgure 8). Accordng to
2019 estmates, coal consumpton makes up 58% of
Chnas energy consumpton and remans ts largest
source. In Chna’s electrcty producton, the share
of coal consumpton s more than 65.3%. Ol and
other lquds account for the second-largest share
of Chnas total energy consumpton wth a share of
20%. Fnally, the share of hydroelectrc energy and
other sustanable sources of energy has reached 13%
(EIA, 2021; Fgure 9).
Figure 5. CO emissions (metric tons per capita)
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
2015 estmates for the BRICS countres and the
US suggest that Brazl, Inda, and South Afrca led the
share of sustanable energy consumpton n overall
natonal energy consumpton. Snce, Chna has nc-
reased the share of sustanable energy consumpton
from 11.7% to 12.4% (World Bank, 2021; Fgure 10).
Importantly, Chna s gong through a clean energy
revoluton snce adoptng the 2005 Sustanable Ener-
gy Law as well as the 12th and 13th Fve-Year Plans
coverng the perod 2011-2020 (Gardner 2018; Guo &
Marnova, 2014; Mathews & Tan, 2015; Su & om-
son, 2016). In as early as 2009, Chna became the wor-
ld’s leadng nvestor n sustanable energy technology
(Guo & Marnova, 2014). In 2013, Chna was the top
nvestor n clean energy wth a total nvestment of 61.3
bllon (Campbell, 2014). 2015 marked the rse of Ch-
na to the status of the world’s largest producer of solar,
wnd, and hydroelectrc power (Gardner, 2018). In
the 2008-2018 perod, furthermore, Chna’s wnd and
solar energy consumpton rose from 3 and 0 Mtoe to
83 and 40 Mtoe, respectvely. erefore, one could de-
duct that the share of Chna’s wnd and solar power n
natonal energy consumpton rose from 0.1% n 2008
to 3.7% n 2018 (BP, 2019).
Figure 6. China’s energy intensity (MMBtu/per capita)
Figure 7. China’s coal production and consumption
Figure 8. China's oil consumption (million barrels/per day)
Figure 9. China's total primary energy consumption in
2019 (by fuel type)
Chna’s Green Agrculture, Eco-Ctes,
and Multlateral Envronmental
Cooperaton: An Unfoldng Revoluton
As mentoned n the ntroducton, agrcultural pol-
luton consttutes a major envronmental problem
n contemporary Chna. e country suers from a
scarcty of arable land beng the world’s largest pes-
tcde producer and consumer (Chna-ASEAN Env-
ronmental Cooperaton 2018:158; Scott vd. 2018:26).
Wth ths n mnd, Chna s currently ncreasng ts
focus on green agrculture to fght aganst agrcultu-
ral polluton and other envronmental strans. Ch-
nas agrculture area under organc agrculture rose
by over 36% n the 2005-2018 perod, from 2,301,300
to 3,135,000 hectares. Chnas 2018 performance has
even surpassed that of the other BRICS countres and
the US n ths area (FAO, 2021; Fgure 11). at beng
sad, Chna has a long way to go gven that ts agrcul-
ture area under organc agrculture accounts for only
2.31% of ts total agrculture area (FAO, 2021). Howe-
ver, t s worth notng that Chna possesses the worlds
largest agrculture area under organc farmng aer
Australa and Argentna. It s possble to argue that
Chna has also set an example for other countres n
the expanson of ts certfed organc agrcultural land
use. Chnas agrculture area under certfed organc
agrculture soared from 10 hectares to 2,558,100 hec-
tares from 2004-2018. Due to ths, Chna has become
the world’s largest consumer of organc food (FAO
2021; Wller, Lernoud, & Kemper, 2018).
Chnas green revoluton n agrculture owes
much to the eorts of central and local governments
at prortsng green agrculture n ther overall de-
velopment strategy (Scott et al., 2018:46). s also
accounts for the rse of the eco-vllage movement
n Chna snce the late 1980s. By 1990, Chna cre-
ated a total of 1200 “plot eco-vllages” (Lu et al.,
2021; Scott et al., 2018:38-39). s number rose to
2000 by the year 2011 (Lu & Wang, 2010:107). e
eco-vllage movement was complemented by strong
polcy eorts emphassng the wdespread adopton
of green labellng standards such as green food (lüse
shpn), polluton-free food (wugongha shpn) and
organc food (youj shpn) throughout the 1990s.
Meanwhle, the Mnstry of Agrculture launched a
green food programme n 1990 and the Chna Green
Food Development Centre n 1992, whch assumed
the task of provdng the necessary techncal support
and qualty control servces to further ths process
(Scott et al., 2018:39-41).
Figure 10. Renewable energy consumption (% of total
nal energy consumption)
Figure 11. Agriculture area under organic agriculture
(1000 ha)
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
By 2011, Chna had created 42 certfcaton
oces, 38 qualty control termnals, and 71 env-
ronmental montorng centres. Moreover, Chnas
green food programme was complemented by the
Rsk-Free Food Acton Plan n 2001, whch sought
to fght chemcal polluton, mprove food securty,
and accelerate organc certfcaton (Scott et al.,
2018:39-41). Ultmately, the Natonal Sustanable
Agrculture Development Plan (2015-2030) pro-
vded a more systematc and holstc blueprnt for
Chnas eorts n green agrculture. In 2017, No. 1
Central Document, an annual polcy document s-
sued by the Central Commttee of the CPC and the
State Councl, elevated green and sustanable deve-
lopment to the status of the second major develop-
ment goal (Scott et al., 2018:39-41).
Chnas eorts n mprovng green agrcultu-
re and buldng eco-vllages go hand n hand wth
ts strategy of sustanable urbansaton (Hu, Lu, &
Sun, 2017). e eco-cty movement (城市) was
launched n 2003 on the ntatve of the Mnstry
of Envronmental Protecton. s ntatve sought
to create a model of a low-carbon and crcular eco-
nomy, expand green and protected zones, encourage
recyclng and energy conservaton, promote susta-
nable archtecture, prevent ar and nose polluton,
and mprove socal welfare and harmony n urban
areas (Wang, 2018; Zhou, He, & Wllams, 2012).
Accordng to research from 2009 conducted by the
Internatonal Eco-Ctes Intatve (IEI), only 6 out
of the world’s 79 eco-ctes orgnated from Chna.
In the 2011 IEI survey, Chna’s eco-ctes rose to 25.
Research from 2015 conducted by Chna dentfed
658 major eco-ctes across the world, 284 of whch
orgnated from Chna. s means that more than
43% of the world’s eco-ctes are currently based n
Chna (Wllams, 2017:4).
e eco-cty movement also contrbuted to Ch-
nas eorts n mprovng multlateral envronmental
cooperaton. Indcatve of Chnese leadershp n the
global eco-cty movement s the Tanjn Chna-Sn-
gapore Eco-Cty, the Sno-Dutch Shenzhen Low-Car-
bon Cty, and the Sno-French Wuhan Ecologcal
Demonstraton Cty. Partcularly, the constructon
of eco-ndustral parks represents central nstances
of envronmental cooperaton among developng
countres n the eco-cty movement. e Chna-Sn-
gapore Suzhou Industral Park contans green areas
and lakes, whereas the Sno-Sngapore Tanjn eco-
cty possesses systems for energy ecency, green
transportaton, green archtecture, sewage treatment,
and recyclng (Chna-ASEAN Envronmental Coo-
peraton, 2018:161; Lu & Lo, 2021:12).
As a locomotve of multlateral envronmental
cooperaton, Chna has extended ts leadng role to
the Assocaton of Southeast Asan Natons (ASE-
AN). In 2009, Chna and ASEAN sgned the Strategy
on Envronmental Cooperaton, whch later contr-
buted to the creaton of the Chna-ASEAN Env-
ronmental Cooperaton Centre. s was followed
by the Chna-ASEAN Envronmental Cooperaton
Acton Plans for 2011-2013 and 2014-2015 as well
as the 2016-2020 Strategy on Envronmental Coo-
peraton. ese strateges and acton plans sought to
mprove regonal eorts n research & development
and eco-cty constructon. Also ncluded n such ef-
forts s the Green Slk Road Envoys Program, whch
sought to develop sta tranng, scentfc exchange,
and poltcal dalogue on matters of sustanablty,
green nnovaton and entrepreneurshp, bodver-
The 2015 One Belt, One Road”
document pledged for the BRI
to assume greater responsblty
n envronmental protecton,
bodversty, and clmate change.
sty, and ecologcal protecton (Chna-ASEAN En-
vronmental Cooperaton, 2018:v).
Chna has recently accelerated ts multlateral
envronmental cooperaton through the channel
of the Belt & Road Intatve (BRI). e 2015 “One
Belt, One Road” document pledged for the BRI to
assume greater responsblty n envronmental pro-
tecton, bodversty, and clmate change. e BRI
developed a more systematc approach to sustana-
blty upon X Jnpng’s 2016 call for the construc-
ton of a “green, healthy, ntellgent, and peaceful”
Slk Road, whch led to the publcaton of the “Gu-
dance on Promotng Green Belt and Road” and the
mplementaton of the Green Acton Plan and the
Martme Cooperaton Vson drven by the prn-
cple of martme protecton (Smonov, 2018). As a
result, the Second BRI Forum held n 2019 formu-
lated green nvestment prncples (Cheung & Hong,
e BRI devotes specal attenton to ensure t
does not mpose polces on ts partcpants and un-
dermne ther natonal soveregnty. e adopton of
BRI’s prncples on ecologcal cvlzaton s le to
the ntatve of partcpant states (Ikenberry & Lm,
2017). In the Second BRI forum, BRI members were
nvted to jon envronmental ntatves such as the
Internatonal Green Development Coalton, the
Sustanable Ctes Allance, the South-South Coo-
peraton Intatve on Clmate Change, the Envron-
mental Technology Exchange and Transfer Center,
the Envronmental Bg Data Platform, and the Gre-
en Investment Fund (Garey & Ladslaw, 2019; Iken-
berry & Lm, 2017). ese ntatves ganed mo-
mentum n response to rsng crtcsm on the part
of cvl socety groups aganst the majorty of BRI
nvestments beng transferred to carbon-drven se-
ctors and large-scale nfrastructure development at
the expense of local envronments (Harlan, 2021).
The le photo shows a wind power plant in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei province. (Xinhua, 2021)
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
Coupled wth BRI’s forum ntatves s green
fnance, whch ncludes fnancal practces nvol-
vng bonds that fund sustanable projects, credts
that support sustanable nvestments, and nsuran-
ce schemes for protecton aganst envronmental
dsasters. Chnese green nvestment has suppor-
ted envronmental ntatves such as low-carbon
transportaton, hgh-speed trans, clean energy pro-
jects, projects aganst envronmental polluton, and
clean coal nvestments. As such, Chna has rsen to
the status of the worlds top leader n green bonds
and credts by outperformng the US n 2019 (Green
Belt and Road Intatve Center, 2019b, Chnadaly
2020b; Harlan 2021; Rooney 2019).
e Asan Infrastructure Investment Bank
(AIIB) –as Asas frst bank to be ndependent from
Western hegemony and the world's fourth largest
multlateral development bank– consttutes an m-
portant fnancal vehcle for BRI (Gürcan, 2020;
Fahamu, n.d.; Koop, 2018). It started to operate n
2016 under Chnas ntatve as “the worlds frst
multlateral development bank (MDB) dedcated to
nfrastructure” (Wlson, 2017). e declared nten-
ton of the bank s to fll the “gap between supply and
demand for nfrastructure spendng n Asa, wh-
ch was estmated at “as hgh as $8 trllon by 2020”
(Ca, 2018). e bank’s approved projects mostly
focus on the energy, water, and transportaton sec-
tors (Chen, 2019). Almost half of these projects are
co-fnanced wth other fnancal nsttutons such as
the Asan Development Bank, the European Bank
for Reconstructon and Development, the Islamc
Development Bank, and the World Bank (Rana,
2019; Bustllo & Andon, 2018). In the perod 2016–
2017, the AIIB approved nearly $5 bllon n loans,
and 35 nfrastructure projects wth an estmated va-
lue of $28.3 bllon (Ca, 2018; Chen, 2019). Unlke
the World Bank, the AIIB does not mpose poltcal
condtonalty and does respect the soveregnty of
clamant natons (Gürcan, 2020).
Chnas ntatve has led the AIIB to adopt a
strong stand on ecologcal cvlzaton. In 2016,
the AIIB adopted the Envronmental and Socal
Framework (ESF), whch encourages fnanced de-
velopment projects to target socal and envron-
mental sustanablty n tandem, ncludng green
economy, gender equalty, and labor rghts. As
regards envronmental sustanablty, the ESF pla-
ces a strong emphass on balanced development,
decreasng fossl fuel consumpton, envronmen-
tal reslence, energy conservaton, and bodver-
sty (Gabus, 2019). In ts second annual meetng
held n South Korea n 2016, the AIIB adopted the
Sustanable Energy for Asa Strategy and approved
ts frst loan for a project that seeks to reduce coal
use n Chna. e AIIB’s fourth meetng was held
n Luxembourg n 2019, where the bank retera-
ted ts commtment to supportng green economy
(Altay & Zeynepcan, 2020). e AIIB’s new funds
that target socal and envronmental sustanablty
nclude “the $75 mllon Tata Cleantech Sustanable
Infrastructure On-Lendng Faclty (Inda), US$75
mllon Asa Investment Fund (Asa-wde), US$100
mllon L&T Green Infrastructure On-Lendng Fa-
clty to fnance wnd and solar energy projects (In-
da), US$200 mllon TSKB Sustanable Energy and
Chnese green nvestment
has supported envronmental
ntatves such as low-carbon
transportaton, hgh-speed trans,
clean energy projects, projects aganst
envronmental polluton, and clean
coal nvestments. As such, Chna has
rsen to the status of the world’s top
leader n green bonds and credts by
outperformng the US n 2019.
Infrastructure On-Lendng Faclty (Turkey), and
US$150 mllon to the Inda Infrastructure Fund to
fnance nfrastructure projects ncludng renewable
energy (Inda)... [as well as] a US$500 mllon AIIB
Asa ESG Enhanced Credt Managed Portfolo
(Asa-wde) wth Aberdeen Standard Investments,
to partner on developng debt captal markets for
nfrastructure... [and the] US$ 500 mllon fund,
the Asa Clmate Bond Portfolo, to accelerate cl-
mate acton n the Bank’s members, and spur the
development of the clmate bond market.” (Vazqu-
ez & Chn, 2019: 598) Besdes energy and nfrast-
ructure, the AIIB’s green framework extends to
sustanable urbanzaton, green transportaton, and
rural sustanablty. ese eorts are clearly exemp-
lfed n a US$329 mllon loan for Indas Gujarat
Rural Roads Project, a US$335 mllon loan for In-
das Metro Lne Project, a US$140 mllon loan for
Indas Madhya Pradesh Rural Connectvty Proje-
ct, a US$445 mllon loan for Inda's Andhra Pra-
desh Rural Roads Project, a US$40 mllon loan for
Laos' Natonal Road 13 Improvement and Mante-
nance Project, a US$216.5 mllon loan for Indone-
sa's Natonal Slum Upgradng Project, a US$270.6
mllon loan for the Phlppnes’ Metro Manla Flo-
od Management Project, a US$400 mllon loan
for Inda's Andhra Pradesh Urban Water Supply
and Septage Management Improvement Project, a
US$200 mllon loan for Sr Lanka's Colombo Ur-
ban Regeneraton Project, and a US$100 mllon
loan for Bangladesh's Muncpal Water Supply and
Santaton Project (Vazquez & Chn, 2019).
Fnally, a word of cauton: t s too early to es-
tmate the future of the AIIB and BRI’s contrbut-
ons to ecologcal cvlzaton, gven that the Green
Slk Road project was only put nto acton n 2019,
whlst the AIIB started to operate n 2016. However,
there s room for optmsm consderng that Chna
has already become a leadng country n multlate-
ral envronmental cooperaton.
A woman drops empty delivery boxes into a community recycling bin in Kunming, Yunnan province. (China Daily, 2018)
Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
BRIq Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer 2021
e AIIB’s strategy on socal and envronmen-
tal sustanablty has already been put nto prac-
tce through green funds mplemented n several
Asan countres. Furthermore, Chnas green n-
vestments as part of the BRI have ganed momen-
tum snce 2016. Cases nclude Chnas ncreasng
nvestments n Vetnam’s solar panels, ts leadng
role n establshng the Quad e-Azam Solar Park
and the Jhmpr Wnd Farm n Pakstan, the As-
ha Wnd Farm and Wolayta Sodo Power Trans-
msson Lne n Ethopa, and other smlar pro-
jects n countres such as aland and Malaysa
(Chernysheva et al., 2019).
Revew and Dscusson
As a strong expresson of ecologcal mperalsm,
prompted by neolberal globalsaton and the
rd Industral Revoluton, Western metropoles
ntated the sh n axs for global producton to
Asa. s enabled Western metropoles to take
advantage of cheap labour supples and access
natural resources n the absence of strct envron-
mental regulatons (Gürcan, Kahraman & Yan-
maz, 2021). Chna was the man target of these
pllagng eorts. However, t managed to beneft
from these neolberal assaults by utlsng pub-
lc-drven polces, whch, despte a number of
lberal compromses, served to protect tself from
becomng a neo-colony. Publc-drven polces
also served to buld a strong economy drven by
natonal nterests, thus generatng grave concerns
for Western metropoles whose global hegemony
was challenged. As a result, Western metropoles
now resort to an ecologcal-mperalst campa-
gn that blames envronmental degradaton on
developng countres, partcularly Chna, whose
leadng envronmental eorts –as the locomotve
of global welfare and the greatest enemy of glo-
bal poverty– are oen undermned by ths Wes-
tern-centrc campagn.
An aerial view of the Taihu Lake scenic area in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. (China Daily, 2021)
Chna has already developed a frm awareness
of ts envronmental problems, whch are realsed
n ts revsed natonal securty strategy that n-
corporates the concept of “ecologcal cvlzaton”.
Chna s n the early stages of buldng an ecolog-
cal cvlzaton and stll has a long way to go before
t reaches a hgh level of ecologcal development.
Perhaps the most mmedate threat to ecologcal
cvlzaton stems from the growng aggresson of
US mperalsm n the form of geopoltcal conta-
nment strateges, techno-economc wars aganst
Chna, and other factors related to the COVID-19
pandemc such as Western-fueled Snophoba
and pandemc-related economc strans (Gürcan,
2019; Gürcan, Kahraman & Yanmaz, 2021). Ne-
vertheless, Chnas key achevements on the path
towards ecologcal cvlzaton nvolve a seres of
three unfoldng and mutually condtonng re-
volutonary processes that also lead the way n
nternatonal envronmental cooperaton, as em-
boded n Chna’s role n ASEAN, the AIIB, and
the Green Slk Road. ey nclude a clean energy
revoluton, a sustanable agrcultural revoluton,
and a green urban revoluton.
Chna has already become a global leader n
green fnance. It leads the eco-cty movement wth
over 43% of the worlds eco-ctes beng Chnese
and s the second leader n sustanable archtecture,
next to Canada. Many Chnese ctes have dropped
down or out of the lst of the most polluted ctes,
leavng Inda and Pakstan at the top. Chna’s ctes
have also joned the ranks of those wth the stron-
gest sewage treatment capacty n the world. Ano-
ther pont worth mentonng s that Chna has the
most electrc vehcles, bkes, and ecent publc
transportaton. Chna s consdered, not only as the
world’s centre of electrc bus producton and con-
sumpton but also as havng ctes wth the world’s
longest subway systems. From 2013 onwards, the
share of coal n Chnas total energy consumpton
has seen a notceable declne, accompaned by the
ncreasng share of renewable resources n total
energy consumpton as a result of conscous eorts
at a clean energy revoluton. Key to ths revoluton
n the makng s Chnas strong reputaton as the
world’s top nvestor n clean energy. As such, t has
succeeded n creatng the worlds largest wnd, so-
lar, and hydroelectrc systems for power generaton.
Fnally, concernng Chnas unfoldng revoluton n
sustanable agrculture, one should acknowledge ts
adopton of green food standards, the expanson
of ts agrcultural area under certfed organc far-
mng, and especally the fact that, as a world leader
n green agrculture, t now has the thrd-largest
agrcultural area under organc farmng. Ultma-
tely, the contnuaton and amplfcaton of all these
achevements are predcated on the future deter-
mnaton of the X Jnpng admnstraton (and ts
successors) to buld ecologcal cvlzaton whle
facng mperalst aggresson.
Chna s n the early stages of buldng
an ecologcal cvlzaton and stll has a
long way to go before t reaches a hgh
level of ecologcal development.
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Efe Can Gürcan-On the Development of China’s Environmental Policies Towards an Ecological Civilization
... THE "CHINESE MIRACLE" HAS BECOME a widely used term in development studies, inspiring developing countries to achieve high levels of prosperity, living standards, and stability over the last decade. The popularity of this term can be explained in large part by the fact that China has enjoyed unprecedented economic success in world history (Zakaria, 2011;Gürcan 2021a), despite enormous historical, demographic, geographical, and geopolitical adversities. China was one of the world's poorest countries before the socialist revolution in 1949. ...
... China has recently emerged as the world's top leader in green transportation, the largest producer of electric buses and the largest market for electric vehicles and bikes. Similarly, China's status as the world's top producer of solar, wind and hydroelectric power is closely related to its reputation as the world's top investor in sustainable energy technology (Gürcan, 2021a). Besides China's historic success in economic and environmental development, one should also note that the Chinese economic miracle is credited for 70% of global poverty eradication between 1990 and 2015 (Gardner, 2018). ...
... In the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, moreover, the BRI publicly announced its principles for green investment, which later led to the creation of several initiatives for sustainability, such as the International Coalition for Green Development, Sustainable Cities Alliance, Climate Change Cooperation Initiative, Environmental Technology Exchange and Transfer Center, Environmental Big Data Platform, and Green Investment Fund. As part of the Green Belt project, the BRI thus promotes green finance, sustainable energy, green agriculture, eco-urbanization, and social sustainability(Gürcan, 2021a). ...
Full-text available
Deciphering the Chinese Economic Miracle: Lessons for the Developing World
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Eco-village development has been considered by the Chinese central government as part of its rural revitalisation campaign and it is seen as a crucial/main solution to the increasingly serious rural issues caused by urban–rural inequality. A significant number of eco-villages are being or will be developed with government leadership and support under the guidance of a corresponding assessment. However, the latest Chinese eco-village assessment, the Evaluation for the Construction of Beautiful Villages (ECBV), has been found to have limitations related to the assessment process, method, and indicators, meaning that it cannot be used to perform a balanced evaluation of the social, economic, and environmental aspects of an eco-village. As assessing an eco-village is as essential as building it, it has become necessary to balance the criteria and improve the ECBV assessment so that it can review existing achievements, guide further development, and ensure better outcomes. Thus, this paper aims to: (1) identify the limitations of ECBV through a case study of a carefully selected Chinese eco-village, Zhenghu Village, by repeating the assessment process and analysing the assessment results, and (2) propose three possible solutions to improve the assessment by applying a revised ECBV assessment, the components of which are adopted and revised from an internationally recognised sustainability assessment, the Sustainable Development Indicators (SDIs). The results of the case study confirm the limitations of the ECBV assessment. Besides, the research outcomes of these three possible solutions can improve ECBV assessment and also provide ideas for the improvement of other existing assessment methods. Moreover, other developing countries may apply the research process and method introduced in this paper to formulate or improve their own eco-village assessments.
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With the continuous development of China’s economy, the influence of financial factors on China’s economy continues to deepen. In recent years, economic development has been more stable, and the average annual growth rate has slowed down. However, the impact of financial factors of China is mostly qualitative analysis, and only few reasonable mathematical models are used in this field. This paper uses BP neural network to establish a nonlinear model of China’s annual economic growth rate and financial factors to analyze the current average annual economic growth rate, which provides effective guidance for China’s future development strategy.
International cooperation has become an important element of urban climate experimentation, particularly in developing countries. Using the Sino-German Eco-Park in Qingdao as a case study, we argue that while multilevel governance and international cooperation are often discussed separately, these two governance tendencies are in fact both important to China’s urban climate experimentation. In particular, Chinese multilevel governance enables bilateral cooperation by (re)shaping the national vision at the local level and resolving potential conflicts or contradictions. It also allows local and foreign intermediaries to coordinate and match resources among different interests and actors. The effectiveness of multilevel governance in eco-city projects is conditioned by intermediary institutions’ resources and capabilities. Effectiveness also depends on maintaining the attention of national governments to the eco-city projects. Thus, the cooperative form, the actors’ attributes, and the resources mobilised by actors are three important factors that affect the outcomes of international eco-city projects.
When Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in the late 1970s, few would have imagined what the next four decades would bring. China’s GDP has grown on average nearly 10 percent annually since, and its economy is now the second largest in the world. Forty years ago, the Flying Pigeon bicycle ruled the roads; today, China is the world’s largest car market. And if forty years ago you looked out across the Huangpu River from the Bund in Shanghai, you would have seen farmland and a few warehouses and wharves; now you see the stunning, futuristic cityscape of Pudong. The material progress of the past forty years has been staggering-a source of pride for the Chinese people, as well as a source of legitimacy for the ruling Chinese Communist Party. But that progress has come at great cost: the extreme pollution of China’s air, water, and soil has taken a stark toll on human health. In Environmental Pollution in China: What Everyone Needs to Know®, Daniel K. Gardner examines the range of factors-economic, social, political, and historical-contributing to the degradation of China’s environment. He also covers the public response to the widespread pollution; the measures the government is taking to clean up the environment; and the country’s efforts to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels and develop clean sources of energy. Concise, accessible, and authoritative, this book serves as an ideal primer on one of the world’s most challenging environmental crises.
The 2000s witnessed tectonic changes in the pattern of international relations. Central to these changes is the crisis of global governance and the multipolarization of world politics. Against this backdrop, Eurasian regionalism led by China and Russia is rising as a major force in geopolitical multipolarization. Recent research in international relations attests to growing interest in Eurasian regionalism, with case studies focusing on individual regional mechanisms. Almost entirely absent, however, is comparative research as to how alternative initiatives may promote Eurasian cooperation in a post-hegemonic direction. My research seeks to advance both our empirical and theoretical knowledge of this emerging area. How do geopolitical and economic realignments shape Eurasian cooperation and conflicts in a post-hegemonic direction? What are the historical and institutional settings that are helping Eurasian countries to implement a post-hegemonic agenda of regional cooperation? Using incorporated comparison, this article focuses on the cases of the SCO, the CSTO, the EAEU, and the AIIB; these are regarded as the most coherent and inclusive alternative governance initiatives in the Eurasian region. I argue that post-hegemonic multipolarity in Eurasia finds its strongest expression in regional governance focused on security and economic cooperation at the expense of US global hegemony. These governance mechanisms arise from several competing but complementary initiatives led by China and Russia. A striking characteristic of these mechanisms is that their institutional design reflects a nontraditional security approach, combining conventional security governance with efforts at market and financial and academic integration, business community building, and youth mobilization. The post-hegemonic character of Eurasian regionalism mainly lies in how it provides competing, but coalescing and coexisting schemes for regional governance, which redress Sino-Russian competition into a peaceful framework and do not call for a frontal attack on the US. Their prospects are threatened by Russia and China’s current economic challenges.
This paper seeks to explore whether the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has become an instrument of power led by China to fulfill her geopolitical interests. After an investigation of the AIIB’s power structure, institutional design, and its 34 approved projects, this study finds that although the AIIB deviates to some extent from international standards while considering loan decisions, the bank itself does not appear to be a norm challenger so far. Instead, it has become more cooperative and inclusive, with a shifting focus towards mutually beneficial cooperation and reform of the international financial system. This paper argues that the AIIB's current configuration results from the decrease in China’s status deficit—the gap between China’s recognized international financial status and its own perception of its financial power. Quantitative and qualitative evidence shows that when the idea of the AIIB was first conceived, China’s status deficit was large, which meant that in a global power struggle the AIIB was more likely to be manipulated by a dissatisfied China. As the AIIB evolved, China’s international financial status gained positive recognition and the AIIB received wider acceptance; China’s status deficit shrank. As a result, the AIIB has become a reform-minded multilateral financial institution that has made concessions to establish rules and has sought collaboration with its counterparts.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – China’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure program across 138 countries and counting – has provoked concern among observers that China is exporting its polluting model of development. Others, however, claim that the BRI is well-positioned to drive “green development” through investments in low-carbon infrastructure and technologies. This review article argues that discussions about “greening” the BRI can overlook the politics that infuse how green development is conceptualized and implemented, and for whose benefit. Taking a political ecology approach, I distinguish between green BRI activities that invest in low-carbon infrastructure and those that mitigate environmental risk – the latter of which are often selectively enforced, leading to “greenwashing.” I then apply this distinction to three key sectors of the green BRI: green finance, green energy, and green cooperation mechanisms. I find that low-carbon investments are currently concentrated in higher-income countries and regions, while risk mitigation activities are currently concentrated in lower-income countries and regions. This article thus highlights the need for attention to how the green BRI is defined and implemented, with implications for efforts toward building an equitable and sustainable Belt and Road.
In 2015, seventeen European states joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as Founding Members. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, among the group, have the largest share of capital and votes, giving them significant voice in the Bank. The purpose of the European members in joining was mainly twofold: (i) to help increase financial flows available for investment infrastructure in Asia; and (ii) to help ensure that the new Bank would adhere to global financial, environmental and social standards, as established by the existing multilateral development banks (MDBs). It can be said that the Europeans have largely succeeded. Existing MDBs have served as models for the standards which the AIIB is institutionalizing. However, some European‐based civil society organizations are increasingly critical of the operations of the AIIB. Moreover, some developing countries may see the AIIB's standards as an unnecessary burden. It can therefore not be assumed that the AIIB will continue to expand its portfolio by merely complementing the existing MDBs. The AIIB seems to be at the crossroads in its dealings with its European members. On the one hand, the Bank is facing growing pressure from its European member states and rising criticism from Western civil society organizations (CSOs) to deliver on its self‐declared high environmental and social standards. On the other hand, there are rumblings that some developing country members of the AIIB want to receive more funding, and some countries may want more infrastructure financing without the strict conditionalities that result from the AIIB's high standards and safeguards.
This essay examines the AIIB’s approach to investing in sustainable infrastructure (SI). The main argument is that the AIIB is taking a hybrid layered approach to SI investment. On the one hand, the Bank is following the ‘do no harm’ pathway of the traditional MDBs, of using safeguards to avoid and compensate adverse social and environmental impacts. On the other hand, it is pursuing innovation, and a more transformative agenda, that encourages investment in SI projects that generate broader, positive developmental spillovers. In pursuing its hybrid agenda, the AIIB is developing its own multi‐layered safeguards regime to ensure smooth and strong SI investment, and alignment between the Bank’s overarching strategic policy, its ESF, sector and thematic strategies, and projects. The analysis also details three ways in which the AIIB stands out from other MDBs for how it is ‘trying new things’ with its approach to SI investment: first, is how ‘economic sustainability’ is one of the main considerations for project selection alongside environmental, social and governance sustainability; second, how the Bank has integrated social and indigenous and oversight safeguards into its ‘environmental and social framework’ (ESF); third, its creation of large‐scale public‐private Funds for green finance and climate finance. Careful and detailed monitoring of the results of the AIIB projects should be a key element of future research. It will be useful for determining whether, how, when, and where the AIIB is living up to its promise to support the transition to SI in Asia and beyond, and also the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 SDGs