Green is gold: The strategy and actions of China’s ecological civilization

from UN Environment Programme
Published on 26 May 2016


The Chinese government has been paying close attention to ecological and environmental issues for many years. It has highlighted Ecological Civilization (or Eco-civilization for short) and environmental protection as a long-term strategy vital to the country’s modernization and its people’s well-being.
China started framing environmental protection as a fundamental national policy in the 1980s and established sustainable development as a national strategy in the 1990s. At the beginning of the 21st century, the government proposed a “Scientific Outlook on Development” that is people-centered, fully coordinated, and environmentally sustainable. In particularly, since late 2012, the government has incorporated Eco-civilization into the “Five-in-One” blueprint of socialism with Chinese characteristics, which outlines a commitment to “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development”.
This blueprint has given great impetus to the implementation of Eco-civilization with environmental quality at its core aiming at “making the skies bluer, mountains greener, water cleaner, and the ecological environment better”

President Xi Jinping has pointed out that “green is gold” and that moving towards a new era of Ecocivilization and building a “Beautiful China” are key to realizing the “Chinese Dream” of rejuvenating the nation. Since its reform and opening-up thirty years ago, the country has seen its economy grow at an annual average of 9.8% (NBS, 2016). It has successfully transitionedfrom a low-income to a highmiddle-income country with significant economic achievements, almost having reached levels of industrialization and urbanization that took one to two hundred years in developed countries. At the same time, however, after an extended period of extensive and high-speed economic growth, China has paid a heavy environmental price, with the emergence of problems such as soot pollution, ozone depletion, fine particulate matters (PM2.5), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Pollution from different sources – production and households, urban and rural, industry and transport - appear to be intertwined with each other. To address the dilemmas between economic development and resource/environmental constraints, the government has most recently proposed a policy of pursuing green development and building an Eco-civilization, which involves management of the relationship between humans and nature in a comprehensive, scientific, and systematic manner. It embodies the “green is gold” perspective of values, development, and governance. It goes beyond and does away with the traditional development patterns and models, guiding the transformation of the production methods and the lifestyle of the entire society.

As China firmly supports and actively implements the concept and actions of sustainable development at the global level, its effort to build an Eco-civilization will make a significant contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The country’s practices and experiments to promote an Ecocivilization will not only contribute to addressing its own resource and environmental challenges but also serve as demonstrations for other developing countries that may wish to avoid the dependence on, and the lock-in effect of traditional development pathways. This is conducive to promoting the establishment of a new global environmental governance system and benefitting the noble course of sustainable development for all people, men and women.