China, the ancient civilization of the Orient, is changing her appearance rapidly into a modern industrialized society over the last few decades. China, along with ancient Egypt, Babylon, and India, is known as one of the four great ancient civilization of the world. The distinctive culture that arose in China was both far-reaching and highly refined. Today, in many foreign big cities, we are not surprised to find the 'China Town' where lots of Chinese elements are well shown. The traditional Chinese culture, especially the invaluable inheritance of the Confucianism has rooted deep in the Chinese minds. The philosophy of Confucianism is also embedded from personal beliefs to national development strategy. The rapid and vigorous industrial development and soft power building of China in recent three decades has already shown to the world how much confident and diligent Chinese are with building their own country and how they are willing to join the hands of western world towards the sustainable future. "Scientific Development", a key word from the national strategy of last government, has been extensively mentioned and applied as guidelines and principals of many development projects in the country. It has enbodied the philosophy of industrial ecology and circular economy in its implication and application. It's out of question that China has learned the experience of western industrialization and began to apply the emerging industrial ecology principals in its own development.
The speed of Chinese industrialization could be easily seen from this small video on Youtube which shows you the growth of different cities in China by GoogleMap visualization of different years.
I herewith cordially invite you to watch the following video of China.
( http://geert-hofstede.com/china.html )
I compared the cultural dimensions of China, United States and Netherlands, which gives a distinctive comparison of the cultural differences between east and west.
(PDI = Power Distance IDV = Individualism MAS = Masculinity
UAI = Uncertainty Avoidance LTO = Long Term Orientation )
We could also evaluate the sustainability of difference countries from various aspects. Here is the comparison of China and The Netherlands where we could easily conclude that China has the urgent need to improve its environmental performance a lot.
It's during the 1970s that China reformed its economy and opened its door for foreign investment. Since then, China’s transformation from a planned economy to market-based economy and open to foreign trade and investment has fuelled economic development. With rapid GDP growth (see picture below), it didn't take China too long to become one of the most important economic powers of the world. However the vigorous economic growth has coupled with severer resource depletion and environmental pollution. On the other hand, the continuous population growth has even exaggerated the environmental impact and spurred more resource extraction and industrial manufacturing. It is instructive to compare China's progress in industrialization with that of other countries. In leading developed countries, such as those in Europe, the process of industrialization has spanned a period of about 200 years, but equivalent progress has been achieved in a few decades in China. The current population of these leading countries is only about 0.7 billion, accounting for 11% of the total population of the world, while China's population is 1.3 billion and constitutes 22% of the total population of the world. Other contrasts of significance are that China's natural resource base is relatively limited, and economic development is further hampered by many difficult natural conditions. China's rapid industrialization has therefore inevitably resulted in serious conflicts between economic development and environmental performance. Five decades of aggressive industrialization has seriously degraded all natural resources. The modern economy of China is characterized by high investment, increasing consumption of natural resources, low efficiency in the process of production, very high emissions to the environment, and an industrial structure that lacks closed loops and other structural efficiencies. In essence, China's mode of economic development has tended to follow a similar industrialization path to that of other countries as they have developed, albeit one that is remarkably rapid.
China has an ambitious development goal which is to raise the majority of China's population into "the all-round well-being society". This means that by 2050 a larger population of 1.8 billion would reach a per capita GDP of US$ 4000 per year, five times the current level. This demands a tremendous increase in production and multiplies pressure on natural resources and the environment. It is realized by Chinese top leaders that this goal would never be achieved if continuing current development models. To achieve the development target set for 2050, China needs alternative development strategy and approach which requires a seven-fold increase in efficiency of resource use while maintaining environmental quality. And the China Council for International Co-operation for Environment and Development even said a ten-fold increase is needed. (Indigo Development)
The severe environmental impact has become visible and aroused broad public concern. Not only environmental scholars but also state leaders began to seek measures to tackle the pollution and consumption. During the past few years, reduction of environmental pollution and better management of resources have been incorporated into state policies. As the former Chinese Communist Party Secretary Hu J.T. and Premier Wen J.B. stated: “China needs development which balances development between urban and rural areas, between the regions, between social and economic aspects, between humanity and nature, and between domestic and international policy development.”
In November 2012, China just sends ripples to the globe by changing his Government. The new President Xi is expected by public to lead further economic and political reforms of the country. I have been paying attention to the news about the new government and I read that the Government has announced that the GDP growth has lost its priority in state development strategy.
In terms of Industrial Ecology, the first related concept appeared in China was the eco-development concept proposed by a member from Chinese Academy of Science Shijun MA in late 1980s. This facilitated the eco-agriculture development in China from mid 1980s. Later, Deli Xi of Tsinghua University introduced the emerging discipline industrial ecology into China in 1990. The 1996 article “Industrial Ecology: New Opportunity for the Private Sector” in the Chinese version of United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP’s) magazine, Industry and Environment Review, introduced a new wave of industrial ecology concepts into China. To date, research on and practice of such core constituents of industrial ecology as life-cycle assessment (LCA), design for environment (DfE), materials flow analysis (MFA), and ecoindustrial parks (EIPs) or industrial symbiosis have reached varying levels of development.
The paper "Industrial Ecology in China Part I & Part II" by Han Shi, etc. has extensively introduced how the Industrial Ecology concepts and tools has been introduced into China and used in research, as well as how institutions helped to diffuse Industrial Ecology to society via offering educational programs.
While industrial ecology has been introduced to Chinese research and education, the application in business and industry is nevertheless quite limited because of the lack of awareness. Scholars believe that "Industrial ecology, as ayoung scientific discipline emerging from North America, Europe, and Japan over the last decade, may obtain unprecedented opportunities for testing of
its methodological robustness and further development of its theory and tools given the size, dynamics, and diversity of China’s industrial activities."
According to Han Shi's paper, it's until around 2001 that have a few governmental officials and industrial practitioners started to show interest, principally in the topics of EIPs and the closed-loop economy. Before 2000, Chinese industry has not been widely aware of or convinced of the industrial ecology and has not been prepared to fund research and practice on the development of industrial ecology tools. Then in 2002 Circular Economy was accepted by the central government as a new development strategy that aims to alleviate the contradiction between rapid economic growth and the shortage of raw materials and energy. This concept originates from the industrial ecology paradigm, building on the notion of loop-closing emphasized in German and Swedish environmental policy, and has been pursued by China’s environmental policy makers as a potential strategy to solve existing environmental problems.
Based on the fact described above, I would like explain the phenomena by linking it with the inherited Chinese culture characters according to Hofstede's cultural dimensions. According to the survey result, China has a high score in Power Distance and low score in Individualism. As a Chinese myself, I understand that in current social system, all individuals in societies are highly not equal. (Power distance is defined as At 80 China sits in the higher rankings of PDI - i.e. a society that believes that inequalities amongst people are acceptable.The subordinate-superior relationship tends to be polarized and there is no defense against power abuse by superiors. Individuals are influenced by formal authority and sanctions and are in general optimistic about people's capacity for leadership and initiative. People should not have aspirations beyond their rank.
Besides, the "Individualism" factor is low for Chinese culture. (the individualism factor depicts the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty) At a score of 20 China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves. In-group considerations affect hiring and promotions with closer in-groups (such as family) are getting preferential treatment. Employee commitment to the organization (but not necessarily to the people in the organization) is low. Whereas relationships with colleagues are cooperative for in-groups they are cold or even hostile to out-groups. Personal relationships prevail over task and company.
According to the above two indicators, I would like to argue that the two indicators (high Power Distance, low Individualism) somehow reflect the high hierarchy of current Chinese political system and Top-down pattern of executing certain policies or principals. The power distance reflects the centralized government power and the fact that resources are controlled in minor groups. The right of making a decision is also limited within high authorities, for example government bureaus. It determines the Top-Down paternalistic leadership in China's political and social environment. Besides the low Individualism indicator reflects the lack of innovation in the economy and the psychology of refusing to change and maintaining current states of the industries. Of course, companies always hate changes. However, after the IE concepts been introduced to China early from 1980s, the slow promotion and diffusion of IE principals amongst industries implies that rare industries and companies understood the value of industry ecology yet.
It would then be easier to understand why the year 2002 is a ice-breaking point of diffusing Industrial Ecology concepts in China as the core concept Circular Economy had been incorporated in state development strategy by central government. After that, the Circular Economy has been extensively used as guideline and principle in development projects.
In organizational terms, in 1999, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA)
became the first central government agency to promote the concept of CE when it launched
a series of projects across the country. Eco-Industrial Parks are especially promoted by SEPA via its circular economy guidelines. Many national and local projects called circular economy and EIPs were carried out. Before 2002, the ice-breaking year of diffusing Industrial Ecology, companies only focused on waste cycling based on closed loop of waste flow in collaboration with other companies. However, after the successful incorporation of Circular Economy into national development strategy, more activities have been created including environmental design, improving resource productivity and eco-efficiency in a comprehensive way, especially optimizing the structure of industry/product, developing and applying new technology, upgrading equipment, and improving management. Some scholars said if China achieves its goal of increasing efficiency of resource utilization by a factor of 10, this will have global impacts. One critical factor will be the success or failure of Chinese leadership in convincing their citizens to follow a Chinese model of quality of life before a US style consumerist lifestyle fully emerges.
In 2004, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC; a unit of the State Council that studies and analyzes the economic situation in China and formulates and implements strategies of national economic and social development, annual plans, and mediumand
long-term development plans)was appointed by the State Council to take over the duty of
promoting CE in the country. This implies that instead of being only an environmental protection strategy, CE has been raised to such a high level that it becomes the overall comprehensive strategy of national development. Scholars have foreseen the tremendous benefit of Circular Economy. Market-based economy enables the transformation to tap the creative entrepreneurial spirit of the new economy in China, while still utilizing public planning mechanisms to assure balanced development.
While we enjoy the outlook of the benefits that CE could bring to us in the future, we also realized that are certain obstacles in the way. One of them is the lack of legislation and lack of discipline in the current economy system.
Two weeks ago, I was in Leiden participating the European Conference with Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. In his speech, Annan said in his point of view, to achieve the sustainable and peaceful future and to realize the Mellenium Development Goals, three prerequisites are needed: 1) stability, 2) development, and 3) rule of law. Kofi Annan especially emphasized on the third aspect ---- rule of law. China still has a lot to improve in terms of institution and legislation. The Chinese government in the past decade had already issued several laws that are very supportive of circular economy. The first and most significant is the “Cleaner Production Promotion Law,” put into effect in January 2003. The amended Law on Pollution Prevention and Control of Solid Waste, which took effect on 1 April 2005, also supports the development of CE; the law is part of the country’s growing demand for strict management of solid wastes. On August 29th, 2008, The Circular Economy Law of People's Republic of China was adopted by the Standing Committee of the 11's National People's Congress. This implies that the Circular Economy concept has become a core value and guideline that every industrial practicer has to comply with.
However, while we are happy with the enact of several laws on Circular Economy, we probably sometimes feel depressed by certain cases that cannot be tackled according to current incomplete laws. Moreover, certain articles in the law are ambiguous. As indicated from Hofstede's cultural dimension--- Uncertainty Avoidance. (The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the UAI score.) At 30 China has a low score on uncertainty avoidance. Truth may be relative though in the immediate social circles there is concern for Truth with a capital T and rules (but not necessarily laws) abound. None the less, adherence to laws and rules may be flexible to suit the actual situation and pragmatism is a fact of life. The Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity; the Chinese language is full of ambiguous meanings can be difficult for Western people to follow. Chinese are adaptable and entrepreneurial. Overall speaking, Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity and sometimes take advantages of the ambiguity of laws. Perhaps, more rounds of amendments of laws and enacting new laws are needed to build a comprehensive and sound legal system in China to better avoid uncertainty and ambiguity in legislation.
Besides, another character of Chinese culture is favoring Long Term Orientation. With a score of 118 China is a highly long term oriented society in which persistence and perseverance are normal. Relationships are ordered by status and the order is observed. Nice people are thrifty and sparing with resources and investment tends to be in long term projects such as real estate. Traditions can be adapted to suit new conditions. Chinese people recognize that government is by men rather than as in the Low LTO countries by an external influence such as God or the law. In promoting Circular Economy and Industrial Ecology concepts, the Long Term Orientation could be observed from the fifty-year plan to achieve sustainability. (see below)
National leaders such as Xie Zhenhua, Minister of SEPA, are charting a fifty-year plan to achieve sustainability. With the new vision, several developments in recent years contribute to this planning:
- Growing recognition of the need to create a development path to meet the needs of a growing population at a higher standard of living without following the model of western consumerism, inefficient resource consumption, and pollution.
- Developing a Circular Economy model with high resource efficiency and low pollution.
- Passage and implementation of the Cleaner Production law.
- Commitment of US$1.2 billion in science and technology investment for sustainable development by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
- Entry to WTO and the need for China’s industry to become more competitive.
- Acceptance of the nearly universal consensus on climate change, reflected by China’s signing of the Kyoto Accords.
At the individual firm level, managers must seek much higher efficiency through the three Rs of CP, reduce consumption of resources and emission of pollutants and waste, reuse resources, and recycle by-products. (Sustainable product and process design is important in German and Japanese recycling economy plans but is just emerging as a component of the Chinese CE concept.)
- At micro or individual level, Circular Economy mainly refers to Cleaner Production. Managers of firms must seek much higher efficiency through the three Rs of CP, reduce consumption of resources and emission of pollutants and waste, reuse resources, and recycle by-products. However, CP auditing in China is still very low since the Cleaner Production Promotion Law took effects in 2003. The sustainable product and process design which is important in German and Japanese recycling economy plans is just emerging as a component of Chinese CE concept.
- The second level or meso level is to reuse and recycle resources within industrial parks and clustered or chained industries, so that resources will circulate fully in the local production system. The target at this level is to build eco-industrial network that will benefit both regional production systems and environmental protection. EIP is the main practice at this level.
- The third level is to integrate different production and consumption systems in a region so the resources circulate among industries and urban systems. This level requires development of municipal or regional by-product collection, storage, processing, and distribution systems. Eco-town, eco-city or eco-province is the major ideas at this micro level.
At the meso level, Eco-Industrial Park is the main practice of applying Circular Economy. The EIP concepts is also discussed in the Social Systems & Policy Management lecture. Chinese scholar Lei SHI from Tsinghua University published the paper "International comparison and policy recommendation on the development model of industrial symbiosis in China" in which he systematically compared the industrial symbiosis models of Kalundborg model, USA model, UK model, Korea model, Japan model and China model.
I believe his comparison also illustrates the features of Chinese industrial symbiosis (industrial ecology) in the context of the global application of industrial ecology principles. However, as shown below, his publication is in Chinese. So I would like to translate it into English as following.
Key partners and collaboration network: At early stages, the enterprises spontaneously cooperate, afterwards, it's the Industrial Symbiosis Association who promoted the IE concepts. Major cooperative members of the network include: enterpriseIndustry, Kalundborg city government, residents and Industrial Symbiosis Association; The Industry Symbiosis
Association is the key participant.
Key activities and core capability: The Kalundborg mode until the mid-1990s has a strong industrial symbiosis feature that the corporation is spontaneously and gradually formed on a commercial basis. The by-product exchange among enterprises is driven by market. Several approaches are applied, including direct sales, barter, or even friendly collaboration
exchange etc. After the establishment of Industrial Symbiosis Association, several companies began to participate in the consultation, infrastructure sharing etc. so that the industrial symbiosis could be realized. Conditions of this includes enterprise geographical proximity, mutual trust, and the presence of benign cooperation.
Capital flow: The Industrial Symbiosis Association raised money from various sectors of the cluster. At the same time, the Association is dedicated in developing new collaboration projects and offering external consultation to gain economic benefit.
Key partners and collaboration network: the U.S. Commission on Sustainable Development, the pilot zone enterprises, residents, public or private developers.
Key activities and core capability: to promote waste exchange with external sectors, the implementation of green building, energy efficiency, and basic infrastructure sharing.
Capital flow: diverse funding sources including the federal government, state government, city or enterprise.
Key partners and collaboration network: NISP (the major promoter), collaboration network including central government, local government and International Synergies Limited and other enterprises.
Key activities and core capability: Corporate Membership Recruitment Plan calls on the member companies to participate the industrial symbiosis program. Interested companies submit the application letter and fulfill the basic information of the company in the survey and report it to the Industrial Symbiosis Program committee. The NISP Program committee then further sort the information using professional industrial symbiosis analyzing software; The NISP Program organizes field trip and investigation to typical circular economy practicing enterprises to further find out the supply and demand of that enterprise; The Program organizes quick wins for potential docking opportunities; If some enterprises have cooperation intention, the NISP will organize bilateral and multilateral meetings, visits for enterprises and facilitate the communication. If the collaboration of enterprises ends up successful, the NISP will draft collaboration memos and case report for companies. With the assent of enterprises, the NISP will open the case report as public resources for promotion. For resources whose condition for instant collaboration is not mature enough, the NISP will keep their information in database and offer consultation to its potential of symbiosis collaboration.
Capital flow: NISP is subsidized by International Synergies Limited and UK central government.
Key partners and collaboration network: National Environmental Department, Eco-town, local government, enterprises and community.
Key activities and core capability: 1) establish a region-based concept of "zero emissions MCC environment friendly, economic and social harmony regional development communities;
2) promote energy saving and resource recycling as well as resource integration in the park and centralized waste treatment.
Capital flow: Japanese central government subsidize 30% of the total financial need of the eco-town or even 50% to those specially innovative processes in certain eco-towns. These subsidy will be utilized to build the infrastructure and software of the eco-towns. Other budget is collected from local companies.
Key partners and collaboration network: Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Science and Technology, local government, Park Management Committee, enterprises and public etc. especially the park management committee
council or the leading enterprises
Key activities and core capability: The state departments introduce the eco-industrial park management practices, technical standards and planning Guide, responsible for the creation of the demonstration projects. Industrial Park Management Committee is responsible for EIP Planning, and setting up the EIP leading office. The committee is also responsible to promote
Waste minimization club construction or establishment of a waste exchange website, and to promote the sharing of ecological infrastructure.
Capital flow: State departments will give some financial support of the demonstration project, or through capital source of comprehensive utilization of preferential policies, such as tax relief etc.
1. Han Shi. et al．Industrial Ecology in China, Part 1 research．Journal of Industrial Ecology，2003, 6（3-4）：7-11
2. Han Shi. et al. Industrial Ecology in China, Part 2 education. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2003(7)：6
3. Zengwei Yuan, et al. The Circular Economy: A New Development Strategy in China, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Volume 10, Issue 1-2, pages 4-8, January 2006
4. Indigo Development, Creating system solutions for sustainable development through industrial ecology