Our work in China
China's economic progress over the past few decades has been dramatic. It’s now the third largest economy in the world. Income has increased by 1,200% bringing poverty from 65% of the population in 1981 to less than 10% today. The country is on track to meet most of its Millennium Development Goals and also leads the world in several indicators of environmentally friendly market growth, including wind power capacity and biomass power. With such impressive growth it is easy to forget that major disparities and inequalities still exist; China is the largest developing country in the world, with 100 of the world’s countries ahead of it in terms of per capita income. China’s progress has also come at tremendous environmental costs, both in terms of resource depletion and pollution.
China is like a laboratory of sustainable development experiments — sharing lessons from these 'experiments' can help other developing countries cope with increasingly scarce resources and rapid environmental change. Equally, China will become a more effective and responsible agent of change in global development processes if it is able to learn from experiences of other countries.
Over the past decade, IIED research teams have partnered with a range of research institutes, government offices and individuals in China. As our work in China develops, we aim to create room for a variety of perspectives and approaches, just as IIED’s issue-based research leaves space for divergent findings and healthy debate.
Our work in China currently focuses on contributing to five main areas with our partners:
- Tackling the natural resource squeeze,
- building Chinese cities that work for people and planet,
- shaping responsible markets,
- demonstrating climate change policies that work for development, and
- communicating lessons learned.
Working with Chinese partners to tackle the natural resource squeeze
China faces many natural resource challenges, from water and forest governance to urbanisation and decreasing agrodiversity. Despite these constraints, China will still play an important role in helping to meet rising global demand for food, land, fibre, water and energy. This work aims to encourage and shape fairer and more sustainable governance of natural resources in China and by Chinese actors around the world by generating the evidence, arguments and leverage needed to improve institutions, policies and legal frameworks.
All our current activities are carried out with Chinese partners and researchers and include:
- developing a web-based forest governance curriculum for Chinese and African media, practitioners and policymakers to promote learning and discussion on forest governance across Chinese and African contexts;
- convening a conference to explore options for pilot projects and activities linking Chinese and African partners focused on improving forest governance in Africa;
- developing a report on traditional sustainable agriculture approaches in China combining a literature review and field-based research;
- sharing our research on land acquisitions in Lao People's Democratic Republic and
- supporting editing and producing a special issue of Participatory Learning and Action on China.
Contributing to Chinese cities that work for people and planet
China has been urbanising rapidly, with huge economic success. But socially and environmentally, many challenges remain. This project aims to work with Chinese partners to help establish better governed, more sustainable cities that are less vulnerable to environmental hazards and can offer secure shelter, access to services and a smaller ecological footprint.
Activities in 2011–12 include:
- Supporting a Chinese partner to develop a training programme for translators on language related to urban development. The partner will also translate 12 articles from Environment and Urbanisation for publication in the Urban China, a magazine on urban developing in the country;
- Supporting the Human Settlements Group’s research on rural-urban issues in China, including fieldwork on the urban development model of Ordos, a large Chinese city in Inner Mongolia.
Helping Chinese partners shape responsible markets
The appearance of a market economy in China over the past decades has greatly improved the lives of many poor people. But this might not continue unless markets are deliberately structured to deliver sustainable development. This project aims to draw together Chinese people, global economists and researchers to explore and promote market governance mechanisms and economic methodologies to bring about sustainable development at local and global levels.
In 2011–12, we are:
- Supporting the Sustainable Markets Group to engage with Chinese small producers, especially in bringing Chinese actors into IIED’s Hivos Small Producer Agency knowledge programme to advocate for smallholders in the global food system.
Helping China demonstrate climate change policies that work for development
China plays a crucial role in global efforts to establish the institutions and finance for mitigating and adapting to climate change. China needs evidence, mechanisms and models to fund adaptation and ensure that Chinese carbon markets improve resilience and sustainable development.
This project aims to engage Chinese partners in building an effective, fair global regime for mitigating climate change and delivering a resilient, low-carbon future. To do this we are working with other Chinese researchers to review two IIED-led chapters of the next assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Communicating our research and lessons learned
IIED’s research has wide relevance in China and we aim to share our experiences in sustainable development with Chinese researchers, practitioners, policy makers and private sector actors.
We are increasing the visibility of IIED’s research in China and improving our links with Chinese researchers and their research by:
- Supporting Chinese partners to share experiences through blogging
- Producing Chinese translations of IIED publications and most downloaded reports.
- Developing internships at IIED for recent graduates with relevant knowledge on China-related research.
- Gathering case studies on China that are relevant to IIED’s research areas
To find out more about our work in China email Lila Buckley, Senior Researcher with the Natural Resources Group.