Chinese Political Science Review

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 359–388 | Cite as

China’s Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Analysis of Push and Pull Factors and Implementation Challenges

  • Berthold M. KuhnEmail author
Original Article


This paper explains why China has developed ambitious policies, targets and projects for sustainable development and has become a promoter of the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Based on analysis of policy documents, interviews and talks with experts, it underpins the relevance of multi-stakeholder contributions and collaborative governance arrangements for China’s green transition, challenging the recently emerging criticism on “orthodox Western environmental discourse” discussed in this journal. Following an introduction and discussion on the relevance of the SDGs, it engages in an analysis of push and pull factors of China’s sustainable development agenda. Driving factors at domestic level tie well into dynamics at international level, for example in the field of China’s aspiration for leadership in the field of green technologies. China is combining command-and-control, market-based and awareness raising measures to promote the sustainability transition. The central government draws on experience gathered at the local level in the context of emission trading, low-carbon and smart city development. Next to government agencies, the private sector and many academics as well as nonprofit actors are involved in the process of disseminating and scaling-up good practices. The main challenges of China's sustainability transition consist of balancing economic, social and environmental objectives in a country with huge economic disparities, addressing capacity building at local level and bringing down double-digit rates of curtailment of renewable energies. China’s commitment to the sustainability agenda clearly has the potential to raise its image and soft power, in particular if it remains committed to global agreements and contributions from a variety of stakeholders at subnational, national and global level.


Sustainable development in China Sustainable development goals Ecological civilisation Collaborative governance Multi-stakeholder contributions 


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Copyright information

© Fudan University and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political and Social SciencesFreie Universität Berlin, Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science (OSI-ATASP)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Dr. Kuhn, Political Analysis, Research & ConsultingBerlinGermany

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