Professor He explores the steps China is making towards sustainability both at a national and international level.

Professor Weidong He in Chapter 12 of China NTCs aims at describing the current Chinese Legislation in relation to the environmental protection, its principles, and the trends towards sustainability. Since the rapid economic growth of China, based on the pattern “large consumption and large production ,” has intensified its environmental issues, the country is now focusing on promoting coordinated development between economy, society, and the environment. This goal of coordination highlights the need of pragmatism when dealing with policy decisions, trying to include different perspectives rather than focusing only on the environmental protection. It has to be noticed that a certain attention for nature was part of the traditional Chinese culture before the Mao’s era. Confucianism was based on the cultivation of virtue and the concept of a harmonious society with a particular attention for nature. In a way, the current trend of the Chinese government is a return to the roots of the country. After an overview of the national environmental legislation in the last 30 years, the author describes the fundamental principles and institutions of the Chinese legal system. These principles include: the principle of coordination of environmental protection and economic and social development; the principle of prevention first; the principle of environmental liability and the public participation principle; and the “three synchronizations” principle. The public participation principle, in particular, is currently confirmed by the flourishing of NGOs to protect the environment. Still, much needs to be done: Chinese civil society is facing severe limitations. It has to be considered that Chinese NGOs, especially in the past but maybe also today, may well represent the Gramscian argument that civil society is often penetrated by the state and has a kind of manipulating power. The process towards a real participation is long and difficult but, after all, it is a learning process everywhere and every national reality has probably something to be improved. Considering the international level, the Chinese participation to the first United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) in the early 1970s, China has taken part to many international environmental activities related to the ozone depletion, hazardous waste, climate change and many others. This activity, at an international level, has probably been favored by the desire of China to create a positive and collaborative image of the country, promoting positive diplomatic ties. The People’s Republic of China is investing on the promotion of a global network to face urging global issues such as climate change and all the linked problems. It is sure that whenever we are, we are connected to China and to each other, so the principle and will to cooperate are clear proofs the Chinese Government is ready to be included in global initiatives. The chaos theorist Edward Lorenz articulated the “butterfly effect” describing that a butterfly flapping its wings can eventually create a hurricane through some cascading events. What a better image to describe the crucial importance of the today’s interconnected world?