Exploring the potential opportunities of China’s environmental agenda, ecological civilization, on global sustainable development

Yilong Li, Yu-Ting Tang, May Tan Mullins, Christopher D. Ives

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Ecological civilization is an important paradigm proposed by China in the context of growing local environmental challenges. The application of ecological civilization may have a spillover effect on the globe. To understand how the paradigm is interpreted by the international academic community and its Chinese counterpart, a bibliometric map of related articles published between 2000 and 2019 was mapped according to the identities of the collected Chinese and international bibliographies (9196 in CNKI and 664 in WoS). The keyword frequency statistics confirm that the concept of ecological civilization has been frequently connected to visions of sustainable development within and outside of China. The chronology of publication numbers and keyword bursts indicated that the studies related to ecological civilization have gained significant traction in China due to official support and the subjects of the research are sensitive to the change in leadership. The much lower publication number of international studies and China-centered co-authored studies indicate that the international community is less enthusiastic about ecological civilization. This may become a barrier to fostering consensus about international collaboration on mutually beneficial sustainable development. Based on the keyword burst analysis, this study is the first to reveal that green development is currently a shared interest in China and internationally in the literature on ecological civilization; international collaboration pursuing green development may be a path to realize global sustainable development goals. Further systemic review of the contents of individual research may need to be conducted to confirm and refine the findings of this bibliometric analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5135
Number of pages25
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2023


  • ecological civilization
  • bibliometric analysis
  • sustainable development
  • green development
  • human-environment relationship


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