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Ecological Civilisation and the Political Limits of a Chinese Concept of Sustainability

Coraline Goron
p. 39-52

Abstract

Since it was first endorsed by President Hu Jintao in 2007, ecological civilisation (EC) has developed into a central element of the green rhetoric of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The political promotion of EC by the Chinese leadership has been supported by a theoretical argument, according to which EC could provide an alternative development theory capable of revolutionising the ecocidal global economic order and bring about a global ecological transition. Does EC present a new theory of development enabling Chinese scholars to contribute meaningfully to the global discussion on sustainable development? What does the circulation of EC between the political and academic spheres tell us about the ability of “social sciences with Chinese characteristics” to produce innovative concepts and theories of sustainability? This article analyses what ecological civilisation brings to the study of sustainability in China as well as globally, through an analysis of the relationship between knowledge and power that has underpinned its development. Based on a qualitative analysis of political documents and a comprehensive review of Chinese academic publications on EC, it unpacks the different layers of political and theoretical meanings that have been invested in the concept of EC over time by CCP ideologues and by scholars; and then analyses the influence that EC has had on China’s sustainability research. It argues that the political discourse of EC has increasingly limited the way in which scholars engage critically with capitalism, democracy, and other elements of green political theory. However, it also shows that many Chinese scholars, while subscribing to the EC discourse, have continued to press for the development of their disciplinary contribution to the global scientific discussion on sustainability.

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References

Bibliographical reference

Coraline Goron, « Ecological Civilisation and the Political Limits of a Chinese Concept of Sustainability  », China Perspectives, 2018-4 | 2018, 39-52.

Electronic reference

Coraline Goron, « Ecological Civilisation and the Political Limits of a Chinese Concept of Sustainability  », China Perspectives [Online], 2018-4 | 2018, Online since 31 December 2018, connection on 16 December 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/8463 ; DOI : 10.4000/chinaperspectives.8463

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About the author

Coraline Goron

Coraline Goron is a Wiener-Anspach postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the Oxford University China Centre, and Oxford St. Antony’s College. coraline.goron@sant.ox.ac.uk

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