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Forty years of reform and opening up: China's progress toward a sustainable path

Journal article
Authors Y. L. Lu
Y. Q. Zhang
X. H. Cao
C. C. Wang
Y. C. Wang
M. Zhang
R. C. Ferrier
A. Jenkins
J. J. Yuan
M. J. Bailey
Deliang Chen
H. Q. Tian
H. Li
E. U. von Weizsacker
Z. X. Zhang
V. P. Nada
Published in Science Advances
Volume 5
Issue 8
ISSN 2375-2548
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Language en
Keywords economic-growth, health, inequality, urbanization, aquaculture, population, management, emissions, drivers, Science & Technology - Other Topics
Subject categories Environmental Sciences


After 40 years of reform and "opening up," China has made remarkable economic progress. Such economic prosperity, however, has been coupledwith environmental degradation. We analyze diverse long-termdata to determine whether China is experiencing a decoupling of economic growth and environmental impacts, and where China stands with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in terms of reducing regional division, urban-rural gap, social inequality, and land-based impacts on oceans. The results highlight that China's desire to achieve " ecological civilization" has resulted in a decoupling trend for major pollutants since 2015, while strong coupling remainswith CO2 emissions. Progress has been made in health care provision, poverty reduction, and gender equity in education, while income disparity continues between regions and with rural-urban populations. There is a considerable way to go toward achieving delivery of the SDGs; however, China's progress toward economic prosperity and concomitant sustainability provides important insights for other countries.

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