China’s leadership has recognised the need to fight environmental degradation and reduce the country’s widening income gap. A green GDP index may help, argue Yongnian Zheng & Minjia Chen, but can it be enforced?
Since the reform and open door policy of the late 1970s, China has achieved a consistently high level of economic growth, with an average annual growth rate of over 9.5%. But the ruthless pursuit of GDP growth has been highly inefficient, causing widening income disparities and environmental degradation on a colossal scale, and resulting in insufficient industrial innovation.
These consequences put into question not only the sustainability of China’s development, but also jeopardise social stability in the country. In recent years, income disparities and environmental degradation have led to an increasing number of social protests, especially in the coastal regions. The Chinese Communist Party has tightened its political control in order to maintain stability, but the leadership also understands that it must adjust China’s development model if it is to cope with the undesirable consequences of rapid economic growth. [Full Text]