Adaptation of ecological modernisation in China : a case study of eco-transformation of industrial areas in Changsha-Zhuzhou- Xiangtan urban agglomeration

Deng, Bingni


Thesis or dissertation

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Since around 2010, Chinese central and local authorities have made increasingly vigorous efforts in curbing industrial pollution. One approach has been the eco-transformation policies for industrial areas. This thesis defines the eco-transformation of industrial areas as the transformation lead by state-led policies/strategies by multi-scale (central/local government) and multi-department (Environment Protection Bureau/ Development and Reform Commission/ Urban and Rural Planning Bureau/ Science and Technology Bureau, etc.) for greening development in industrial areas. Policies and practices for the eco-transformation of industrial areas in China have a resemblance to the Ecological Modernisation approach that has been applied in the European context. Ecological Modernisation can be summarised as a strategy of systematic (technical) innovation and expansion of economic growth that also has the potential for environmental improvement (Jänicke, 2008).

This thesis contributes to debate as to the nature of Ecological Modernisation in the Chinese context and the extent to which the concept has evolved alongside the geographic transfer from the European origins of the concept. As Ecological Modernisation is a theory but also a practical strategy for policy discourse, the shifting in governance perspective impacted by eco- transformation policies of industrial areas through rescaling framework of environmental governance was analysed. Also, since the spatial perspective that both Western countries and China concerned during EM practise, this thesis also explored the spatial impacts on industrial areas through eco-transformation.

Data was collected both by second and first hand source (incl. semi-structured interviews, field visits and observations as well as participant observation). Semi-structured interviews of 19 peoples from seven different organisations (i.e. governmental sectors, state-owned industrial companies, private industrial companies, private pollution treatment companies, state-owned finance companies and developer companies (PCs), spatial planning agencies, and environmental NGOs.) in Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan urban agglomeration were undertaken. Extensive policy analysis and use of official statistics were undertaken.

As the results, in terms of the rescaling process of environmental governance, this thesis finds that the environmental governance of industrial areas in China has changed from centralised to decentralised as in most other capitalist countries when they are applying Ecological Modernisation. However, environmental decentralisation in China did not achieve expected performance shifts like in western countries, therefore, a round of rescaling-up and ‘soft- recentralisation’ was generated after around 2015. The same situation also happens in the cooperative governance between governments with private sectors and with environmental NGOs. China is undertaking a different way to western countries for Ecological Modernisation given Chinese political-economic regime and development pathway. Regarding spatial perspective, industrial areas proceeded both geographical movement and spatial restructuring during the eco-transformation process. A new understanding about the relationship between Ecological Modernisation with space was presented. This thesis not only gives Ecological Modernisation Theory broader application confines and diversified scales but also provides references for the policy-makers.

Department of Geography, Geology and Environment, The University of Hull
Deutz, Pauline; Affolderbach, Julia
Sponsor (Organisation)
University of Hull; China Scholarship Council
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