Springer Nature established the China New Development Awards this year in order to recognize authors for their contributions to the delivery of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Read on for an interview with one of the winning authors, and click here to learn how the Springer Nature SDG Programme continues to support authors and researchers who work toward sustainable development.
by Angie Voyles Askham, Content Marketing Intern
Zheng Xinli is an economist and author of the book China’s 40 Years of Economic Reform and Development: How the Miracle Was Created, which explains China's rapid growth over the past 40 years from his perspective as an insider. In our interview below, Prof. Zheng answers our questions about the long- and short-term goals of his work and how China's continued economic reform continues to contribute to sustainable development worldwide.
The author's responses have been translated from Chinese to English with help from an assistant, and have been edited for length.
How does your book, China's 40 Years of Economic Reform and Development, help to address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?
The book elaborates on the path of China's sustainable development, mainly proposing to change the mode of economic development by shifting economic growth through investment to consumption and increasing material consumption to improve technologies, management and the quality of workers. All such efforts would help achieve substantial change in China's economic development. The "Polluter Pay Policy" promotes a market mechanism through a third-party service for the development of environmental protection industries. Implementing the developmental concepts of Innovation, Coordination, Openness and Sharing has been effectively aligned with sustainable development in China.
China's sustainable development has made two major contributions to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On one hand, the Chinese government issued the "China Progress Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2019)." The report shows that China has made tremendous progress in health care, gender equality, and development of clean energy. From 1978 to 2018, 850 million people in China were alleviated out of poverty, contributing to more than 70% of global poverty reduction. Additionally, China's green sustainable development will provide valuable experiences for other developing countries to promote green transformation and achieve sustainable development.
What is the best way to measure success against these goals?
First of all, sustainable development should be achieved in the three dimensions of ecology, economy and society. The one-sided emphasis on ecological environmental protection while ignoring the basic needs of economic and social development cannot be called sustainable development. The real sustainable development should balance the relationship between development and environment.
Secondly, every country has different development levels and faces different challenges. We should formulate practical and feasible models and paths of sustainable development individually based on the combination of SDGs and the actual conditions of the country.
Furthermore, we can use “Carbon Neutral” as one of the most important criteria to evaluate the achievement of SDGs. The UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development proposes to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the second half of this century, capturing the main contradictions of world development and reflecting China's requirements for achieving sustainable development. The Chinese government has proposed a suitable green sustainable development mode by launching pilot projects in selected regions with "carbon neutral" solutions.
In your experience, how is the research community most effective in contributing to sustainable development?
The complexity and interconnectivity of the SDGs require new ways and partnerships for communication and cooperation. The research community should strengthen dialogue and cooperation with the government, social organizations and enterprises, and actively promote the application and dissemination of sustainable development technologies and experiences globally. The research findings should be widely disseminated by strengthening communication with the whole society for more public understanding and social consensus.
How do you hope the policy and business communities might implement your research to solve regional and global issues?
We should establish communication and coordination mechanisms connecting government, enterprises and social organizations for partnerships and synergy in the areas of standardization, project implementation, fiscal and taxation policies, and financial support to achieve the UN’s 2030 SDGs.
We should promote the policy and business communities to help developing countries practicing the sustainable development through international cooperation. Meanwhile, the developed countries will share opportunities and markets in the process of sustainable development in developing countries. We can motivate the international communities to switch from “burden bearing” to “opportunity sharing," from “zero-sum game” to “win-win cooperation."
What are the short-term and long-term goals of your work?
By initiating the international cooperation pilot projects on green sustainable development in selected regions in China, my colleagues and I will promote the application and dissemination of more technology and experiences.
The Chinese government launched the development plan of the Huaihe River Eco-Economic Belt last year, in which we propose to apply the concept of sustainable development to the governance of Huaihe River Area. As one of the initiators, I am working on the implementation of this plan.
We will explore the establishment of investment and financing mechanism for green sustainable development by motivating more social capital worldwide to contribute in sustainable development, so as to support the implementation and promotion of international cooperation projects.
China is formulating the 14th Five-Year Plan, which promotes the green transformation of Chinese economy focusing on the four outstanding issues of air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, and waste disposal. We shall realize the circular utilization of resources by recycling the waste, reduce the greenhouse gas emissions through developing clean and renewable energy. In this way, Chinese people can enjoy modernized life without excessive pressures on global resource consumption.
We will also establish innovative international organization and cooperation platform in order to help more countries and regions to achieve green sustainable development the UN’s SDGs.
Zheng Xinli is a well-known economist, professor and doctoral tutor. He has worked with the economic group of the Research Section of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Information Center, and the Policy Research Office of the State Planning Commission, as well as other organizations. His work serves to help Chinese leaders in making economic decisions. In 2013, Prof. Zheng appeared on the list of China’s Top Ten Economists. He is currently serving as Vice Chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges and as Executive Vice President of the China Urban-townization Promotion Council, which he initiated.