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Individual Paper: Circular economy as a solution to the environmental crisis in China and its implications on the Chinese vision of economic growth: towards a debate on degrowth in China?

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The environmental argument weighs in the necessity for degrowth. Indeed, environmental needs are often challenged by economic goals and, more than often, weigh less. The case of China is even more significant and there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the Chinese ecological situation is particularly serious. Besides the famous air pollution, we can add the pollution of water and arable lands. This global pollution and China’s natural poverty of resources, in comparison to the importance of its population, leads to a critical environmental situation. Specifically, the Chinese economic growth itself has been extremely pollutant. Secondly, to focus on the role of economic growth in the environmental crisis is even more relevant in the Chinese case because the promise of economic growth has been one of the pillars of the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy. As the environmental situation becomes more and more hazardous for the population, the government’s answer – conflicted by the need for environmental improvement and economic growth – also become more ambiguous.
Circular economy has been promoted as one of the solutions, through the implementation of eco-industrial parks and eco-cities, and the 2008 law promoting circular economy. Opposed to our current linear economic system that considers natural resources as infinite, circular economy is a way of organization that gathers many methods beyond recycling, such as industrial economy, eco-conception, economy of functionality etc. Often summed up by the expression “First repair, then reuse, finally recycle”, we could add “reduce” to the list. Indeed, circular economy can be understood as a paradigm: developing a circular economy without dealing with the rhythm at which it grows would be non-sense. It is in those terms that we study circular economy in this paper. As Chinese policies promotes a systemic vision of circular economy, we ask ourselves: can circular economy lead to a debate on degrowth in China? Not only does China’s current situation – in terms of health, ecology and social – seem favorable to criticizing economic growth as a major objective but, also does Chinese traditional philosophy. Taoism, for example, can be a fertile ground for degrowth in the Chinese mindset.


Day: 2018-08-22
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (209)
Track: Expanding Geographies of Degrowth



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