China's innovation-driven approach for sustainable development
Alexander Ayertey Odonkor
Nantong Zoo in Nantong, Jiangsu Province. /IC

Nantong Zoo in Nantong, Jiangsu Province. /IC

Editor's note: Alexander Ayertey Odonkor is an economic consultant, chartered financial analyst, and chartered economist with an in-depth understanding of the economic landscape of countries in Asia and Africa. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

China has been phenomenal in aligning its medium- and long-term development strategies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Chinese government's effective implementation of these two development strategies is facilitating a balanced economic, political, social, ecological and cultural progress in the country. Through an innovation-driven approach, China is focusing on three key areas to achieve sustainable development: creating an ecological civilization, eradicating poverty and providing sustainable solutions to address climate change.

China has succeeded in lifting all of its rural poor population from absolute poverty. This means that 128,000 villages, 832 counties categorized as poverty-stricken and almost 100 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. How did China achieve this remarkable accomplishment?

According to China's Progress Report on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2019), the total population of people living in poverty in rural areas in China decreased from 55.75 million at the end of 2015 to 16.6 million by late 2018. During the same period, the poverty incidence declined from 5.7 percent to 1.7 percent. Since the 1980s, China's poverty alleviation programs in rural areas have been consistent, organized and coordinated.

These policy measures were effective in mollifying poverty as many people in rural areas were lifted out of poverty. However the remaining poor population became scattered geographically with deeper poverty levels. Helping these people became a daunting task as they were not accessible. To provide a panacea to this challenge, a "targeted poverty alleviation strategy" was put forward in 2013.

It narrowed the focus of poverty alleviation and development and enhanced the use of funds. The procedure of precision poverty alleviation is in contrast with policy-driven flooding of interventions and funds to alleviate poverty and consists of three main stages: accurate identification, targeted interventions and appropriate exit. 

Through the accurate identification procedure, poor households were identified. This was possible because of effective data collection practices such as household surveys, community discussions, calls for public information and spot checks. Through this practice, the poorest were identified and the relevant records and base figures that depicted their real condition were established.

Then specific measures were designed and implemented in accordance with the precise needs of poor households. These targeted interventions included relocation, ecological compensation, industrial development, social security and educational development. 

These tailor-made measures have been effective in eradicating poverty in rural areas. A beneficiary of this targeted measure is no longer considered as impoverished when the per capita income of this household is steadily over the poverty line and access to basic amenities (healthcare, education and housing) is not hampered.

Another area where China is adopting an innovation-driven approach to provide a coherent conceptual framework for development that meets the challenges of the 21st century is ecological civilization. While the major components of Sustainable Development are environmental, economic and social; ecological civilization broadens this scope as elements such as culture and politics are also considered. 

China is relying on innovation to achieve ecological civilization. In 2016, the State Council issued the Plan of China on Building Innovation Demonstration Zones for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and proposed to build about 10 national innovation demonstration zones.

Evidence of this implementation is visible in many parts of China, including Shenzhen, where the city's economic strength and the quality of development have been improved considerably.

The city's scientific and technological capacity has also been enhanced to support sustainable development, which can easily be seen in the landscape. With a forest cover that accounts for around 41 percent of the city's entire land area, Shenzhen boasts a high-quality, optimally-structured low-energy consumption development mode, where industries are required to carry out activities that are environmentally friendly with reduced greenhouse gas emission.

The number of rural poor in China plunged from 98.99 million in 2012 to 5.51 million in 2019. /VCG

The number of rural poor in China plunged from 98.99 million in 2012 to 5.51 million in 2019. /VCG

Shenzhen continues to champion the cause of sustainable development through an innovation-driven approach that fosters efficient use of resources to address water pollution. Rainwater and sewage water diversion projects and water purification plants have been well-equipped to treat sewage generated in the city. Similar efforts are directed towards energy consumption, where all gas-fired power plants have been upgraded to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

It is crystal clear that China is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emission in the fight against climate change; this commitment has been demonstrated with encouraging results. By 2019, China's greenhouse emission per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) had diminished to 48 percent, achieving the target set by the Copenhagen Summit (2009) before 2020.

In a previous article, I indicated that China has increased the use of renewable energy in its energy mix in recent years. The article also reveals that the capacity of China's installed solar photovoltaic apparatus in 2013 exceeded the combined output of all European countries. With a commitment to fight climate change, China is currently the largest exporter of renewable energy, accounting for two-thirds of the world's solar photovoltaic equipment.

In addition to this, China has installed the world's largest capacity of hydroelectric power, biogas and wind; the country also has an efficient waste-to-energy management system. China has been able to accomplish this impressive feat because the country continues to increase investment in research and development.

China's massive investment in research and development is fueling the country's innovation-driven strategies that are addressing climate-related challenges and promoting sustainable development.

Through its fight against poverty and climate change and the use of innovation to drive sustainable development, China has inscribed an indelible mark in the history of human civilization.

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