Rome Club Report 2018, Chapter 3.17: “Action at the National Level: China and Bhutan”

Original author: Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Anders Wijkman
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3.17. National Actions: China and Bhutan

Sustainable development policy is the main national policy. Of course, the success stories told at the beginning of chapter 3 are subnational. Other chapters offer solutions for the business world or for the international level. As for the national level, it is impossible to cover almost 200 countries of the world. Instead, two countries will serve as examples. They can be viewed as extremes in terms of population size and density, industrialization, and importance to world trade: China, the giant, and Bhutan, the dwarf. Both of them in their own way demonstrated remarkable strategies for solving problems of sustainable development. China has chosen a strategy of rapid industrialization and economic growth, and recently also the “greening” of its economy.

Bhutan has chosen a radical task in the field of environmental protection, declaring the happiness of its people more important than economic turnover.

3.17.1 China and its 13th Five-Year Plan

In China, there are profound changes. The period of heavy industry, cheap mass production and aggressive exports is smoothed out. At the same time, massive pollution of air and water haunts the population of China, and the demand for high-quality food exceeds supply. Early expectations of continuing double-digit growth collapsed as part of these new realities, and investors and speculators lost a lot of money. This, in a nutshell, was the situation in 2015, when China released its 13th five-year plan.

Five-year plans are developed by the highest levels of the state and by parties that make decisions about regulatory directives for implementation at the provincial and local levels. Since 2006, the name of the five-year plans has been changed to “Guide” to indicate that the will of the people and the markets will also influence the development of the country over the next 5 years. However, for the international reader, we continue to use the more familiar term of five-year plans. Starting from the 11th five-year plan (from 2006 to 2010), these templates included a strong focus on local environmental health. The 12th five-year plan, from 2011 to 2015, added a strong decarbonization component.

The 13th five-year plan, adopted in 2015, has significantly increased the need to reduce China’s carbon dependence by setting ambitious renewable energy goals and further improving energy efficiency. This is in line with China’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Protection Agreement. It also emphasizes the efficiency of resource use in a waste-free economy.

In addition, several regional strategies were included, such as the importance of natural ecosystems in the further development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze delta and the Pearl delta. In accordance with the UNEP Green Economy Program, the 13th Five-Year Plan formulated the concept of “eco-civilization” in the development of industrial zones and urban city-forming clusters.

For industry, the Plan represents the concept of "green production", embodied in the 10-year vision of the Production Manual "Made in China in 2025". The

presentation of eco-civilization does not yet have prescribed methods. A good start is an assessment of the current state of the environment and the determination of its ecological boundaries (“control lines”), especially the determination of its baseline (red) line, as far as possible from a scientific and rational point of view. In addition, measures are being taken to restore environmental quality. All this needs to be discussed with local residents or farmers, and also to ensure proper training and expertise.

Control lines should be obtained using science at district levels. Taking into account economic growth, local authorities may, for example, seek to compensate for the consumption of grass cover through remediation measures for grass cover, such as artificial parks and recultivated or forested hills, although, of course, there is an important stability between artificial forest and natural.

In 2015, China singled out four cities to create “Natural Capital Balance Sheets” as trial cases. They mention the “System of Environmental-Economic Accounting 2012” from UNEP, which requires accurate data. This task requires overcoming barriers that impede the exchange of data between various government departments. In other words, the Eco-civilization program carries with it the desire to move from slogans to quantitative and measurable actions.

Farmers receive clear benefits, namely, the ability to use allocated land to own houses, as well as to transfer and trade land. This option provides a quick way to achieve success that farmers could not afford before.

A new social problem is the Internet +, which allows direct sales, thereby reducing the possibility of earning income in traditional professions. Obviously, the Internet has led e-commerce to new giants such as Alibaba, Taobao, Jingdong and Their B2B, C2C and e-pay portals have successfully connected manufacturers, consumers and banks directly, but have created a steeply growing demand for new transportation and logistics infrastructures, entering into the remaining treasures of the natural landscape.

At present, China is experiencing a Western trend of creating food supply chains using refrigeration equipment and centralization. He also grabs new opportunities for municipal agriculture, such as vertical farming, hydroponics, aeroponics and agriculture supported by local communities (CSA), close to urban consumers. Food safety also has a high profile in the 13th five-year period.

In manufacturing, China is currently concerned with large overcapacity in heavy industry and labor costs approaching OECD countries. The answer given in the 13th five-year plan is called “Made in China of 2025”, which consists of an ambitious transformation in the direction of the big data trend, which currently covers the United States, Japan and Germany and is aimed at a constant information flow between all the participants. by the parties. The Chinese concept also includes a strong focus on environmental design with high resource efficiency, universal decarbonization of the entire environmental safety cycle of production and a highly efficient environmentally friendly production system. This is partly a response to the fact

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has begun creating innovative devices by developing functional tools and visual symbols representing their intended transition to eco-civilization in agriculture and industry. The Academy has created such tools and symbols to help managers and clients redesign processes in accordance with the requirements of eco-civilization. This implies a holistic and symbiotic approach, rather than narrowly defined standards.

For agriculture, this means environmentally high diversity and chemical agricultural enterprises with high-quality products, in contrast to large monocultures dependent on a large number of agrochemicals. All this requires greater responsibility from farmers. One local example of symbiotic thinking in agriculture can be found in Ying Xiang Wei Ye, a farming cooperative located in Cao Xian, Shandong, where the Yellow River used to be. To eliminate or minimize the use of hormones or other animal preparations, the feed used comes from well-controlled, healthy soil with local herbs as additives to enhance the immune system of animals. Fresh milk delivery is limited to a given distance to ensure quality. Organic farms are not yet very profitable in China. The best way to improve this situation is to offer housing, recreation, food and tourism on the farm to farmers. Farmers can become partners, not employees of the enterprise.

In the 13th five-year plan, special attention is paid to resource efficiency, which goes beyond the closure of inefficient companies. The ideas of the Club of Rome, such as Gunther Pauli’s Blue Economy (section 3.3) and Factor Five (section 3.9), gained great popularity in China. Also Cradle to Cradle (Cradle to Cradle) and Resource Productivity in 7 stages are available in Chinese and are not deprived of attention. Similarly, the German concept of Passivhaus, saving up to 90% of energy consumption, has become the design standard for Chinese buildings. The implementation of this standard would mean a huge shift in the construction and repair of housing in China, allowing much more people to use the minimum cost of heating, fresh air and modern LED lighting.

A completely different story, also from the Blue Economy, is a “stone paper” of sand (calcium carbonate) and plastic waste. It drastically reduces the use of water, fibers from trees and toxic chemicals. Stone paper can be recycled or used as an additive in steel mills, calcining glass or cement. The philosophy of the Blue Economy actually resembles the BASF “Verbund” system of chemicals and energy moving through an industrial conglomerate that uses waste from one process as a raw material for the next as far as possible. China is already reaping the benefits from this, in Yangtse BASF, Nanjing Chemical Industrial Park in Lue-Nanjing and Shanghai Chemical Caojing Industrial Park.

Clustering or cascading various processes can become a central methodological feature of future industrial parks. Thus, industrial emissions of carbon dioxide can be reduced by up to 80%, and air pollution from SOx, NOx and PM 2.5 will be reduced, including water pollution. The Lun Chemical Plant, located in Tang Xian, Shandong Province, is the first coal chemical facility to apply hydrogen gasification technology with multiple injections. Its chemical products are derived from the first and second level of methanol and ammonia.

In conclusion, it is safe to say that the 13th five-year plan in China largely corresponds to the need for a global green economy. China, being the world's largest industrial producer and model for many developing countries, appears to be strongly in favor of greening the world.

3.17.2 Bhutan: Gross National Happiness Index

Until the 1970s, the sparsely populated Himalayan country, Bhutan, was essentially isolated from the rest of the world. The 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Signe Wangchuk, initiated reforms and opened the country to visitors. During the reforms, which included a modernized education system and a modernized economy, the king stated that gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product, since the latter focuses too much on the material benefits of human well-being, biodiversity and sustainability.

During the 2008 global financial crisis, the idea of ​​a gross national happiness index gained much publicity and caused excitement in the United Nations and in intellectual circles around the world. The World Happiness Report has long been published regularly, but in Bhutan, the pursuit of happiness was not just a matter of philosophical discussion. For example, environmental protection is a constitutional mandate. More than 50% of the territory of Bhutan is designated as protected by national parks, reserves and bio-corridors. The country has pledged to remain neutral with respect to carbon and to ensure that at least 60% of its territory is given as forest, indefinitely; in fact, carbon sequestration in forests is currently double that of national carbon emissions!

According to the constitution, all Bhutanese are officially responsible for protecting the environment, and the country does not suffer from the usual tensions between economic development and environmental protection. Their only successful geographic feature is the use of “hydrodynamic” hydropower developments that require the preservation of watersheds in natural forests. This benign hydropower meets the national capacity requirements and still allows large exports to neighboring India, creating a significant amount of foreign currency. Bhutan has also developed a “low impact / high cost” approach to tourism, protecting against some of the negative, culturally destructive aspects of mass tourism.

In many ways, Bhutan looks pleasant and resilient. Of course, in fact, people, especially the younger generation, also want the benefits of modern amenities. The 2013 national elections ended in a staggering victory for the People’s Democratic Party, which increased from two seats to an absolute majority of 32 seats in parliament. The early ruling party (largely focused on “happiness” and the world) lost 30 seats, from 45 to 15. The new prime minister, Tering Tobey, even expressed cautious skepticism about the country's famous doctrine of happiness.

However, the current young fifth king Jigme Kesar Namggel Wangchuk leaves no doubt that he adheres to the father’s preference regarding the importance of happiness over the materialistic values ​​of GDP. People worship him; time will tell how Bhutan will develop.

To be continued ...

For the translation, thanks to Diana Sheremieva. If you are interested, I invite you to join the "flashmob" to translate a 220-page report. Write in a personal or email

More translations of the report of the Club of Rome 2018


Chapter 1.1.1 “Various types of crises and feelings of helplessness”
Chapter 1.1.2: “Financing”
Chapter 1.1.3: “An Empty World Against Full Peace”

Chapter 3.1: “Regenerative Economy”
Chapter 3.3: “Blue Economy”
Chapter 3.10: “ Tax on bits ”
Chapter 3.11:“ Financial Sector Reforms ”
Chapter 3.12:“ Economic System Reforms ”
Chapter 3.13:“ Philanthropy, Investment, Crowdsourse and Blockchain ”
Chapter 3.14:“ Not a Single GDP ... ”
Chapter 3.15:“ Collective Leadership ”
Chapter 3.16: “Global Government”
Chapter 3.17: “Actions at the National Level: China and Bhutan”
Chapter 3.18: “Gra motivation for the future "


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