Ecological Civilization in the making : the ‘construction’ of China’s climate-forestry nexus

Weins, Niklas Werner; Zhu, Annah Lake; Qian, Jin; Barbi Seleguim, Fabiana; Costa Ferreira, Leila da


In the Anthropocene, debates about global climate risks have taken carbon as a measure of policy success, with land-based mitigation strategies like afforestation receiving particular scrutiny. While scientists and policymakers discuss forestry as a potential climate solution, China has been implementing massive forestry projects for decades, drastically transforming environments under the Ecological Civilization framework. This article showcases China’s globally emerging paradigm of Eco-Civilization and its implications for the climate-forestry nexus. Drawing parallels with Ulrich Beck’s concept of ‘metamorphosis’ and Bruno Latour’s concept of ‘mutation,’ we argue that China’s Eco-Civilization aspires to a fundamental transformation in worldview–but one that is promoted as distinctly non-Western. We use the case of forestry to illuminate the potentially unique features of Chinese environmentalism as encapsulated in Eco-Civilization. We find that Eco-Civilization affords a strong role for the central state in actively building and constructing an ecological future in which the natural and the socio-political are not considered separate. This is in contrast to certain Western visions of preserving nature from human encroachment through grassroots environmental movements. We conclude by highlighting the theoretical contributions more pluralized debates about China’s environmental rise could bring to environmental sociology.