Forty years of reform and opening up:China’s progress toward a sustainable path

Lu, Yonglong and Zhang, Yueqing and Cao, Xianghui and Wang, Chenchen and Wang, Yichao and Zhang, Meng and Ferrier, Robert C. and Jenkins, Alan and Yuan, Jingjing and Bailey, Mark J. and Chen, Deliang and Tian, Hanqin and Li, Hong and von Weizsacker, Ernst Ulrich and Zhang, Zhongxiang (2019) Forty years of reform and opening up:China’s progress toward a sustainable path. Science Advances, 5 (8). ISSN 2375-2548

[thumbnail of eaau9413.full]
Text (eaau9413.full)
eaau9413.full.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (814kB)


After 40 years of reform and “opening up,” China has made remarkable economic progress. Such economic prosperity, however, has been coupled with environmental degradation. We analyze diverse long-term data to determine whether China is experiencing a decoupling of economic growth and environmental impacts, and where China stands with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in terms of reducing regional division, urban-rural gap, social inequality, and land-based impacts on oceans. The results highlight that China’s desire to achieve “ecological civilization” has resulted in a decoupling trend for major pollutants since 2015, while strong coupling remains with CO2 emissions. Progress has been made in health care provision, poverty reduction, and gender equity in education, while income disparity continues between regions and with rural-urban populations. There is a considerable way to go toward achieving delivery of the SDGs; however, China’s progress toward economic prosperity and concomitant sustainability provides important insights for other countries.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Science Advances
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
28 Aug 2019 12:50
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 02:39