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Understanding ecological civilization in China: From political context to science

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China’s concept of “ecological civilization” can be understood as a new system of development and governance based on the perspective of political decision-making. Environmental management, ecological restoration, and green development are its primary principles—distinctly different from industrial and agricultural-oriented civilizations. In this paper, we evaluate the evolution of political connotations of the ecological civilization concept in China over the past 15 years through a textual analysis approach. Additionally, we systematically outline an ecological civilization indicator system and analyze its evolutionary process, applicable scales, and role in guiding the implementation of the ecological civilization concept. Eco-civilization demonstration sites and experiences are also discussed, followed by a review of academic research and policy-making responses. Finally, we propose different perspectives on the outlook for the future of ecological civilization development in China.

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Thanks for the support from URA Project (Urban-Rural Assembly, Grant No. 01LE1804A1) funded by German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41971166). The authors are grateful to two anonymous referees and to Bo Söderström whose insightful comments helped producing a better paper.

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Correspondence to Bing Xue.

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Xue, B., Han, B., Li, H. et al. Understanding ecological civilization in China: From political context to science. Ambio 52, 1895–1909 (2023).

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