Ecological Civilisation: A Historical Perspective on Environmental Policy Narratives in China
This paper engages with China’s currently most prominent environmental policy concept: ecological civilisation. As this concept is becoming a cornerstone of China’s strategy of socialist modernisation, we examine whether and how the term can enable ecological protection in China and beyond. We argue that ecological civilisation, while a recently emerged discourse, builds on established environmental governance practices in China that shape its manifestation in political action. To illustrate this argument, we explain how two philosophical principles central to ecological civilisation discourse, “holism” and “harmony”, have been expressed in environmental political practice in Communist China. Building on this analysis, we suggest that ecological civilisation discourse may have a profound impact in certain policy domains (e.g., resource conservation and ecological conservation redlines), but limited transformative capacity in others (e.g., environmental litigation and resource extraction).
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