China’s economic growth and environmental protection

Approaching a ‘win–win’ situation? A discussion of ecological modernization theory 1

Authored by: Dayong Hong , Chenyang Xiao , Stewart Lockie

Routledge International Handbook of Social and Environmental Change

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782791
eBook ISBN: 9780203814550
Adobe ISBN: 9781136707995


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Modern China is one of the main engines of global economic growth. A three-decade-long trend of annual GDP growth of around 9 per cent was maintained through the global financial crisis 2007–2012 and residents’ average incomes, consumption and savings continue to improve (NBS 2011). Thus, China’s per capita GDP increased from 379 yuan per annum in 1978 to 29,920 yuan in 2010. Per capita disposable income for urban households grew from 343 to 19,109 yuan over the same period and for rural households from 134 to 5,919 yuan. This is reflected in consumption, which rose from 405 yuan per annum in 1978 to 15,907 yuan in 2010 for urban Chinese and from 138 to 4,455 yuan for rural Chinese. Household savings over this period increased by a factor of 1,439. Living standards have risen and many Chinese, positively, have been lifted out of poverty (NBS 2011). However, questions remain as to the ecological and public health costs of such rapid and sustained economic growth. Even as growth has slowed slightly in coastal centres such as Beijing and Shanghai in response to government efforts to control inflation and unemployment, and achieve more balanced income distribution, etc., economic growth in the vast central and western regions of China has accelerated.

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