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Researching the transition to Ecological Civilization

Conference paper
Authors Marie Thynell
Published in Global Modernization Review from The 3rd International Modernization Forum, 2019.
Publisher Peking University Press
Place of publication Beijing
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Global Studies, Peace and Development Research
School of Global Studies
Language en
Keywords Air pollution, strategy of national development, re-embeddedness, shengtai wenming 生态文明/eco-civilization, transformation & transition.
Subject categories Peace and development research, Chemical Sciences, Organic Chemistry


In the Age of the Anthropocene, hazardous pollutants and foul air impede on a prosperous development in China. Accordingly, in 2013, the strategy of development was redirected towards establishing Ecological Civilization (wenming 生态文明) to respond to the growing adversaries associated with earlier modern mainstream development such as rapid growth, industrialisation, urbanisation, social fragmentation, inequality, uneven development and non-resilient institutions. Amongst the responses was the rejuvenation of China and to lower the gaps between public acceptable risk levels of air pollution and the policy objectives e.g. to reduce the PM 2,5 by 25% in Beijing until 2017. The paper targets the reduction of PM 2,5 in cities, as a vehicle for the transition to Ecological Civilization and discusses the re-embeddedness and transformation of China based on the double movement and the Great Transformation presented by Polanyi. The science-policy-nexus is presented with examples from the Pearl River Delta Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network – Regional Collaborative Efforts together with policies and strategies to combat the environmental and socio-economic obstacles to achieve Ecological Civilization; the Air Pollution Action Plan (CAAC, 2013) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. In 2017 President Xi Jinping stated that ‘ecological civilisation’ is the long-term approach to a future secure and prosperous China. In order to address development-related problems, the current national strategy of development and in particular the eco-civilizations prioritises pollution reduction, efficient use of natural resources, food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation. The notion of ‘Eco-civilization’ sits well within the Chinese tradition and has a strong discursive power in that it envisions better planning and future development within China’s ecological capacity.

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