Rusong Wang and Juergen Paulussen

China is experiencing rapid urbanization and industrial transition. In China one can find nearly all levels of development, from highly developed cities to poor, underdeveloped rural communities. Ecosustainability can be ensured only with an understanding of the complex interactions between environmental, economic, political, and sociocultural factors and with careful planning and management grounded in ecological principles.

Sustainability assessment indicators (SAIs) in China were initiated in the 1980s and came to the forefront in the 1990s, when China was developing its Agenda 21 (People's Republic of China 1997). China's Agenda 21 is management oriented. It is based on four pillars: a comprehensive strategy and policy of sustainable development, sustainable social development, sustainable economic development, and rational use of resources and environmental protection. A set of indicators has been developed by research institutes and central, regional, and local government organizations. Five kinds of coordination are emphasized by the central government: between regions of different sizes, between urban and rural areas, between social and economic development, between humans and nature, and between self-sufficiency and external symbiosis. Different ministries have initiated various projects and campaigns to promote sustainability at different scales since 1992, such as the Comprehensive Experimental Community for Sustainable Development, initiated by the Ministry of Science and Technology; the National Eco-Agricultural Counties, initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture; and Ecological Demonstration Districts (ecoprovinces, ecocities, ecovillages), initiated by the State Environmental Protection Agency (Figure 20.1).

Based on the experiences of these pilot studies, different ministries have created certain indicators to measure and assess these test units. The State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has promulgated a set of ecopolis assessment indicators to measure ecosustainability by cultivating an ecologically integrative and biologically vivid

Government initiating

Enterprises supporting

Scientific advisory

Citizen participation

1

r

*

Ecological agricultural counties (51)

Comprehensive experimental communities for sustainable development {>40)

Ecological demonstration districts (484)

I

1

<

Totally functioning technology

Systematically responsible

Institutions

Ecologically compatible culture

Technological innovation

Institutional reform

Eco-industry

Productivity richness institutional effectiveness Life quality

Physical and mental health Ecosystem order

Ecoculture

Value change

Capacity building

Ecolandscape

Figure 20.1. Sustainability demonstration of ecopolis development in China.

landscape (ecoscape), economically productive and ecologically efficient production (eco-industry), and large-scale and long-term responsible culture (ecoculture). There are twenty-two indices for ecoprovinces, twenty-eight indices for prefecture-level ecocities, and thirty-six indices for ecocounties (SEPA 2003). The indicators include economic productivity, scientific and technological creativity, ecological integrity, governance coordinating ability, social integrity, and external openness.

Academic Assessment of Sustainable Development Using Sustainability Indicators Based on the SENCE Approach

Grounded in ancient Chinese human ecological philosophy, the Social— Economic—Natural Complex Ecosystem (SENCE) concept was developed by Ma and Wang (1984) to assess the sustainability of human-dominated ecosystems (Figure 20.2). SENCE's natural subsystem consists of the traditional Chinese Five Elements: metal (minerals), wood (living organisms), water, fire (energy), and soil (nutrients and land). Its economic subsystem includes the functional components of production, transportation, consumption, regeneration, and regulation. Its social subsystem includes technology, institutions, and behavior. Whereas the natural subsystem is the basis and framework for all activities (outer pentagon), the social and economic sub-

Diagrams Representing Lake Ecosystem
Figure 20.2. Social-Economic-Natural Complex Ecosystem (SENCE) and its sustain-ability dimension.

systems are the components of the system, where decisions are made, directing the whole system to or from sustainability. Science provides people with an understanding of the system's contexts in time, space, quantity, structure, and order, and it provides decision makers with images, strategies, tools (e.g., software) for systematic planning and management (Wang et al. 1996). The critical issues in assessing sustainability are to frame the complicated interactions, simplify and integrate the diverse relationships, and develop a practical instrument for promoting sustainable development.

A series of SENCE-based combined models for assessing sustainability was developed and implemented in the 1980s. This group model consists of mechanism explanation models (internal mechanisms of competition, symbiosis, circulation, and self-sufficiency; temporal and spatial processes, patterns, and order; the balance between the four driving forces of energy, money, power, and spirit; and the human interference of technology, institutions, and culture), planning models (panobjective ecological programming and conjugate ecological planning), and management models (ecoservice, ecome-tabolism, and eco-institution monitoring and supervision and capacity building).

Sustainability assessment involves multiple scales (time, space, and administrative ones, both internal and external, upper and lower scale, long and short term, centralized and decentralized organization), multiple attributes (population, resource, and environment), and multiple objectives (productive wealth, functional health, and faith). The use of these models has three objectives: social, economic, and environmental benefits.

The SENCE-based sustainability indicators in China were developed according to the following framework (Figure 20.3):

• Function: producing, living, and sustaining

• Cybernetics: competition, symbiosis, and self-reliance

• Driving forces: energy, money, power, and spirit

• Human interference: technology, institutions, and culture

• Effects: efficiency, equity, and vitality; or productivity, life quality, human capacity, and ecological order

• Context: time, space, quantity, structure, and order

• Awareness: scientists and technicians, policymakers, entrepreneurs, residents, and media

• Evolution level: survival, predevelopment, and postdevelopment

Figure 20.3. Three dimensions of sustainable development.

• Stability: structural stability (diversity and dominance), process stability (growth rate and fluctuation range), and functional stability (self-reliance and openness) (Wang et al. 2004b).

Based on this framework, SAIs in China give primary attention to the harmony between mechanisms, concepts, methods, analysis, aggregation, and implementation and the coupling between natural services and human well-being (Wang et al. 2004a).

Methodological Considerations for the Assessment of Sustainability Indicators in China

There are ten kinds of problems for SAIs in China.

Definition standards. Some indicator sets are targeted to identify ecological units, but they consist of a large number of socioeconomic indicators. The understanding of ecological in indicator sets is different from the scientific definition of ecological. It merges two aspects without resolving contradictions.

Imbalance in evaluation. Environmental protection projects often consider economic and social effects. On the other hand, the ecological effects of economic and social programs often are evaluated only by environmental agencies and are seldom integrated into an overall decision-making process at the city and province levels, although the central government pays more attention to sustainability. There is a risk of overvaluing economic aspects and favoring prosperous areas with high economic power but excessive consumption levels.

Local or regional and short-term orientation. In many Chinese indicator systems, some key issues of global concern, such as emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, are not sufficiently expressed by the indicators.

Problematic link of ecological relevant key issues to gross domestic product (GDP). In many indicator systems, the consumption of energy and water, two critical key resources in China, is linked to the economic development level, expressed by GDP. Sometimes there is a threshold (e.g., "energy consumption should not be more than 1.4 tons of coal equivalent per 10,000 yuan GDP," "water consumption should not be more than 150 m3 per 10,000 yuan GDP"). This definition is not useful because it does not encourage rich cities and counties to reduce their water and energy consumption. In fact, linking key issues to GDP may encourage cities and counties to increase their GDP through higher per capita consumption of critical resources. Furthermore, the link may contribute to disharmony between rich and poor areas, particularly when water and energy consumed by rich cities (e.g., in the three main coastal agglomerations around Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou) are generated in and withdrawn from poorer regions.

Quantitative and qualitative indicators. Quantitative criteria, such as energy consumption and water consumption, should be supplemented by the assessment of how energy is generated and how water is supplied in sustainable ways.

Aggregation of results. Research results, such as the ecological performance of a city, are often highly aggregated when published. Proving results and comparing scores for different cities are often difficult for non-insiders (e.g., the percentage of green areas can be measured easily but is not very useful because of the extreme geographic differences between cities).

Data generation and data availability. The availability of data is a key issue for SAIs in China. Data in China come from public statistics; specific statistics and institutional databases of administrative bodies; internal statistics and databases of enterprises, research institutes, and nongovernment organizations; and geographic information systems and survey-based and remote sensing data, generated from aerial photography and satellite images. But the difficulties are numerous:

• Databases often are not sufficient.

• Databases often are not reliable.

• Data needed to assess sustainability and ecology either do not exist or are not made available to researchers, planners, and the public.

• References of data sources often are not complete, and transparency is low, often because of high competition in research.

• Exchange of key data between scientific institutions and planning institutions could be improved in order to safeguard the quality of research and enable researchers and planners to generate results from a common base.

For these reasons, economic criteria are often given priority over ecological phenomena, and important but difficult-to-measure ecological indicators are neglected in favor of economic ones.

Weighting of indicators. Results gained through indicator systems are often purported to be scientifically based, objective, and free of individual values. However, values and weighting are unavoidable and necessary in the development and use of indicator systems. Even if no explicit weighting has been applied (and variables have been set equal), the indicators have been valued. Evaluating indicators is an important step in the assessment process. Furthermore, the selection of indicators for the assessment itself is an act of evaluating. Therefore, values hidden behind the indicators and the weighting procedure should be made transparent. Levin (1997) states that "all the important decisions are made with tremendous dependence on embedded values" and that "sustainability is about values—valuing other species, and valuing other humans, living now and in the future." In light of the increasing public discussion about ecological and socioeconomic issues, strategies, and values in China, this aspect of evaluation is of great importance.

Substitution ofindicators. Some indicators can be substituted for others. A good economy can "buy" some achievements in other fields (e.g., end-of-pipe treatment, precautions, social benefits). An intact environment is a precondition for a high-level, hightech, high-wellness economy and society. In the externalization of costs and impacts, institutions, enterprises, and individuals tend to relay costs and negative impacts to others (e.g., other communities, third parties).

Preference dilemma. On the basis of scientific results, which problems should be solved first by policy? In China, the budget for environmental measures often is very limited. Government institutions usually give preference to economic goals and indicators ("pollution first, environment later").

Case Study for SAIs: Yangzhou Ecocity Development

The city of Yangzhou is located at the juncture of the Grand Canal and the Yangtze River, with an area of 6,638 km2 and a population of 4.47 million people. Yangzhou has more than 2,500 years of history and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes. The pace of urbanization and industrialization in the Yangtze delta region is dramatic, especially on the south bank of the Yangtze River, along the Suzhou-Wuxi-Changzhou corridor. To catch up with its neighbors' development while avoiding the heavy environmental pollution and ecological deterioration, the city of Yangzhou has been engaged in an ecocity development project since 1999. An ecocity plan was made by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and adopted by the city's People's Congress (Wang and Xu 2004).

The Yangzhou ecocity development project has three main goals:

To cultivate an ecological industry through economic transformation from a product-and consumption-oriented economy to a social and ecological service function-oriented economy To cultivate the ecological landscape through a transition from fossil fuel-driven agriculture and pollution-intensive industry to a clean, green, self-sustaining ecoscape through comprehensive ecosystem management and ecological engineering

To cultivate ecological culture through a transition from traditional living styles and values (production modes) to a culture of harmony between people and nature (via value change and capacity building)

Two systems of indicators are being used simultaneously to assess the city's overall potential for sustainable development. The first system consists of sector-oriented indicators for sustainability assessment, which follow the current statistical system in China, classified into economy, environment, and society, where the historical data are available. There are three, seventeen, and seventy-nine basic indicators in class I, II, and III, respectively. The class I indicator, "Economy," includes five aggregated indicators (economic level, resource efficiency, development potential, ecological industrial, and enterprise behaviors), based on nineteen basic indicators; "Environment" includes four aggregated indicators (environmental quality, pollutant emission, pollution treatment, and ecological conservation and design), based on thirty-two basic indicators; and "Society" includes eight aggregated indicators (social equity, education and medical treatment, living quality, population dynamics, consumption behaviors, cultural landscape, social ethics, and government behaviors), based on thirty-eight basic indicators.

The second system is based on the potentials of sustainability. The indicators measure sustainability development status, dynamics, and strength, based on nine aggregated and twenty-five basic indicators selected from seventy-nine sectoral indicators (Table 20.1).

Development status represents the quality of economic growth, social living conditions, and environmental quality. Development dynamics represents the efficiency and speed of economic growth, social stability, environmental improvement, and ecological restoration. Development potentials represents the capability of the economic structure and administrative structures, decision-making ability, and ecological services and carrying capacity.

Table 20.2 shows the results of aggregation using the aforementioned indicators in Yangzhou ecocity planning (2005—2020), using a polygon-based approach (Wang and Xu 2004).

Since 2000, a series of institutional, legislative, technical, educational, and financial capacity-building measures has been implemented based on these indicators. Some domestic and international cooperative projects were initiated, including a project called "Ecocity Planning and Management," conducted by the German GTZ Institute. By 2005, some key indicators were exceeded. For example, the goals for GDP per capita and the GDP revenue ratio have been exceeded by 113 percent and 127 percent, respectively, and the comprehensive index of urban environment has been upgraded from number 7 to number 1 in the ranking of all Jiangsu Province cities assessed by the provincial government since 2004.

Conclusions

In the past decade, many Chinese research institutes and universities active in the environmental and ecological field have conducted research on sustainability indicators and set up indicator systems. Common traits and trends include the following:

• Reduction and simplification: Many researchers are trying to reduce the number and complexity of indicators.

• Three pillars: The division of indicators into three major groups or pillars—ecological, economic, and social—is widely applied in China. Compared with many other countries, in China there is not much discussion about the problems and shortcomings of this approach.

• Anthropocentric approach and data pragmatism: Although a large amount of economic and social data has been collected in recent decades, the availability and exchange of reliable environmental data are still a problem in China. Non-anthropocentric data are particularly rare. With a few exceptions, sufficient data are available only for anthropocentric aspects. Therefore, the selection of criteria and indicators is often determined by data availability.

Table 20.1. Indicators for system sustainability assessment in Yangzhou ecocity development.

First Class (D) Second Class (C) Third Class (B) Fourth Class (A) Target 2000 2005 2010 2020

Reference Value

Economic growth

GDP per capita (104 yuan) 7 1.05

Land productivity (104 yuan/km2) 5,000 711.2

Living conditions

Average life expectancy (years) Housing index

72 0.67

73 0.75

75 0.85

78 1

Environmental quality

Percentage of water bodies with quality 100% better than NES class III

Annual percentage of days with air 100%

quality better than NES class III

Forest cover 40%

Percentage of people satisfied with 100%

their environment

Economic dynamics

Annual GDP growth rate 15% 10.5%

Energy efficiency (industry GDP 10,000 3 0.85

yuan/ton of standard coal equivalent)

Percentage of government revenue in 22% 7%

total GDP

(continued)

Table 20.1. Indicators for system sustainability assessment in Yangzhou ecocity development (continued).

First Class (D) Second Class (C) Third Class (B) Fourth Class (A) Target 2000 2005 2010 2020

Reference Value

Social dynamics Reciprocal of Gini index 3.300 3.226 2.857 2.632 2.941

(social equality)

Environmental dynamics Restoration rate of degraded land

Ratio of discharged industrial sewage that was treated and met national standard

Recycling and reuse rate for household garbage

Use rate of domestic animal waste

Economic potentials Authentication ratio of ISO 14000

Annual investment in fixed assets as a 40% 27% 30% 33% 38%

percentage of GDP

Percentage of jobs in R&D 20% 2.9% 8.0% 14% 18%

(continued)

Table 20.1. Indicators for system sustainability assessment in Yangzhou ecocity development (continued).

First Class (D) Second Class (C) Third Class (B)

Fourth Class (A)

Social potentials Average education of adults (years)

Average professional education of civil servants (years)

Percentage of government policies in accordance with ecocity planning

Ecoservice enhancement Investment in the environment as a potentials percentage of GDP

Percentage of preserved areas in the territory

Target 2000

Reference

Value

2005 2010 2020

12 W

10 4

NES = national environmental standards in China.

Percentage of citizens who participate in and 95% 35% 50% 75%

are aware of environmental management

Table 20.2. Sustainability assessment of Yangzhou ecocity planning (2005—2020).

2000

2005

2010

2020

Second Class

Third Class

Index

Grade

Index

Grade

Index

Grade

Index

Grade

Development status

Economic growth

0.10

IV

0.25

III

0.44

III

0.87

I

Living conditions

0.40

III

0.46

III

0.56

II

0.75

I

Environmental quality

0.19

IV

0.39

III

0.64

II

0.78

I

Comprehensive index

0.20

IV

0.38

III

0.60

II

0.82

I

Development dynamics

Economic dynamics

0.28

III

0.42

III

0.58

II

0.72

II

Social dynamics

0.95

I

0.71

II

0.58

II

0.76

I

Environmental dynamics

0.30

III

0.53

II

0.76

I

0.94

I

Comprehensive index

0.35

III

0.48

III

0.63

II

0.81

I

Development potentials

Economic potentials

0.05

IV

0.20

IV

0.42

III

0.80

I

Social potentials

0.17

IV

0.47

III

0.73

II

0.88

I

Ecoservice enhancement

0.17

IV

0.34

III

0.52

II

0.75

I

Comprehensive index

0.12

IV

0.33

III

0.55

II

0.81

I

Overall sustainability

index

0.22

IV

0.44

III

0.64

II

0.85

I

The index ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 the worst and 1 the best, and is divided into four grades: grade I (>0.75—1), grade II (>0.50—0.75), grade III (>0.25-0.50), and grade IV (0-0.25).

• Focus on numeric data: Many Chinese decision makers favor numeric data.

• Transparency of results: In Chinese publications, a high level of data aggregation and standardization is common, and data transparency is low. Thus, verifying final results (e.g., overall ecological performance) and comparing them (e.g., scores of different cities) are difficult for non-insiders.

The SENCE approach to the assessment of sustainability indicators in China is designed to help decision makers, researchers, planners, entrepreneurs, and ordinary people understand how the ecocomplex is functioning, systematically and ecologically, and how their actions are connected with their social, economic, and long-term ecological interests. Experience and evidence on the assessment of sustainability indicators and their application in China show that although there are still some gaps between theory and practice, between more and less powerful decision makers, and even between scientists from different backgrounds, the trial-and-error approach in ecopolis development at different scales in China has promoted urban and regional sustainable development in the past two decades. In China, transforming scientific results on ecological issues into policy action targeting sustainability is still a major challenge.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Erich Schienke for his careful revision of this chapter.

Literature Cited

Levin, H. 1997. Internet forum, organized February 19 at greenbuilding-[email protected].

Ma, S. J., and R. S. Wang. 1984. Social-Economic-Natural Complex Ecosystem. Acta

Ecologica Sinica4(1):1—9. People's Republic of China. 1997. Chinas Agenda 21. National report on sustainable development. Available at www.iclei.org/la21/map/acca21.htm. SEPA. 2003. The constructing indicators for the ecological country, the ecological city and the ecological province. Beijing: China State Environmental Protection Agency. Wang, R., D. Hu, X. Wang, and L. Tang. 2004a. Urban eco-service. Beijing: Meteorological Press.

Wang, R., S. Lin, and Z. Ouyang. 2004b. Theory and practice of Hainan eco-province development. Beijing: Chemical Industry Press. Wang, R., and H. Xu. 2004. Methodology of ecopolisplanning with a case of Yangzhou.

Beijing: China Science and Technology Press. Wang, R., J. Zhao, and Z. Ouyang. 1996. Wealth, health and faith: Sustainability study in China. Beijing: China Environmental Science Press.

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