An examination of Chinese responses to sustainability accountability: the move towards ecological civilization from a Foucauldian episteme-change perspective
This paper considers that the contingencies in place in China around sustainability are unique for a major emerging economy. Chinese actors in the sustainability network are dominated by government, not corporations, and the links to ancient Chinese philosophy, whilst not immediately apparent, do persist. Furthermore, China is the first major economic power to commit to a new developmental direction, to become an ecological civilization. To study this situation, this paper focuses on providing both theoretical insight and empirical findings to answer the question – “Can China move to new accountability for sustainability based on ecological civilization?” Much of the existing research on Chinese responses to accountability for sustainability has been based on corporate responses. Because of the high profile of the authoritarian Chinese government, this study extends this analysis to political regions which are based on Chinese provinces and provincial environmental protection agencies. Foucault’s insights into episteme change are used to understand sustainability accountability in the Chinese context and to represent findings in a new development model. This model is explained with regard to a transition from the Modern to an emerging episteme represented by the ecological civilisation concept now adopted by the Chinese government. Documentary analysis is used to provide key themes and evidence. The findings are that China does have a unique opportunity to change from the existing industrial Modern civilization to an ecological civilization and that existing accountability for sustainability evidence demonstrates that this change is already taking place.
Citation:Margerison, J., Fan, M. and Birkin, F. (2016) An examination of Chinese responses to sustainability accountability: the move towards ecological civilization from a Foucauldian episteme-change perspective. ISDRS and theCenter for Environmental and Sustainability Research, School of Science and Technology, Universidade Nova de Lisboa