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Abstract

In industrialized countries, the idea of degrowth has emerged as a response to environmental, social, and economic crises. Realizing environmental limits to and failures of more than half a century of continual economic growth in terms of social progress and environmental sustainability, the degrowth paradigm calls for a downscaling of consumption and production for social equity and ecological sustainability. The call for economic degrowth is generally considered to be delimited to rich countries, where reduced consumption can save “ecological space” enabling people in poor countries to enjoy the benefits of economic growth. China, as one of the economically most expanding countries in the world, has dramatically improved its living standards, particularly along the Eastern coast, over the latest 30 years. However, China is absent from the international debates on growth. This article discusses the implications of the Western degrowth debates for China. Given the distinctive features of China’s development, the paper aims to enrich the degrowth debates, which have hitherto been dominated by Western perspectives. Based upon reflections on social, environmental, and moral dimensions of economic growth, the paper argues that limited natural resources may not continuously support universal affluence at the current level of the rich countries, a level that China is likely to reach within a few decades. Priority for growth in China should therefore be given to the poor regions of the country, and future growth should be beneficial to social and environmental development.

Keywords

Economic growth, Degrowth debates, China, Environmental sustainability, Social equity, Morality