In industrialized countries, the idea of degrowth has emerged as a response to environmental, social, and economic crises. Realizing environmental limits to and failures of more than half a century of continual economic growth in terms of social progress and environmental sustainability, the degrowth paradigm calls for a downscaling of consumption and production for social equity and ecological sustainability. The call for economic degrowth is generally considered to be delimited to rich countries, where reduced consumption can save “ecological space” enabling people in poor countries to enjoy the benefits of economic growth. China, as one of the economically most expanding countries in the world, has dramatically improved its living standards, particularly along the Eastern coast, over the latest 30 years. However, China is absent from the international debates on growth. This article discusses the implications of the Western degrowth debates for China. Given the distinctive features of China’s development, the paper aims to enrich the degrowth debates, which have hitherto been dominated by Western perspectives. Based upon reflections on social, environmental, and moral dimensions of economic growth, the paper argues that limited natural resources may not continuously support universal affluence at the current level of the rich countries, a level that China is likely to reach within a few decades. Priority for growth in China should therefore be given to the poor regions of the country, and future growth should be beneficial to social and environmental development.
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In a degrowth economy as proposed by degrowth proponents, the economic growth in rich countries is lower than zero-growth. This paper still adopts zero-growth as an illustration of an alternative trajectory for rich countries since the extent of degrowth is difficult to project.
Due to insufficient educational resources and thus on average poor study performance of high school students in Western China, universities usually lower the entrance line of NCEE for those student as a compensation for the regional disparities. This policy has attracted students from the Eastern provinces, where competition is fierce between a large number of candidates and entrance line is high, to immigrate to the less developed provinces the year before the NCEE. Benefiting from their good education background, their chances of being enrolled by universities are greatly increased. Because “easterners” who go to West China only for a short time to benefit from the lower entrance line occupy vacant quota places at the cost of the native young people of Western China, immigration for NCEE further worsens the inequality in terms of education. The root cause for this phenomenon is the unequal availability of educational resources across different regions (Lai and Wu 2003).
If the carbon footprint is included, the overshoot will be more than 90%, according to WWF.
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Xue, J., Arler, F. & Næss, P. Is the degrowth debate relevant to China?. Environ Dev Sustain 14, 85–109 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-011-9310-z