Ecology becomes Shanghai priority

Updated: 2013-01-18 02:36

By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Shanghai will have a stronger focus on ecological development rather than solely focusing on economic growth, a senior expert said on Wednesday.

Zhu Dajian, a professor at the School of Economics and Management at Shanghai's Tongji University, delivered a report to the city's top leaders about the concept of ecology over economy this week.

It gives a glimpse of what is on the minds of the city's new leadership headed by Party chief Han Zheng, said Zhu, who is also the director of the university's Institute of Governance for Sustainable Development. Zhu said Shanghai is taking the lead in China in pushing forward economic transformation.

"It shows the leaders of Shanghai have taken further steps to put the pursuit of ecological civilization in a more important place as they forge ahead with the city's development," he said.

Ecological civilization, highlighted together with green development in President Hu Jintao's report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November, stresses that sustainable development must maintain a balance between man and nature.

The concept is broader than simply environmental protection or a tool for balanced economic development, and emphasizes that development must take account of social justice and fairness.

For a long time the country has been making economic expansion a priority, and it is "very difficult" to push for a change toward ecological development, Zhu said.

"We need to take advantage of China's social system to push for the change from top to bottom," he said. "To ensure a transformation toward ecological civilization, we need education and also the support of the system."

If officials' assessment mechanism does not change, the push for ecological development will fail, he said.

But Shanghai has set an example in giving up the expansive growth mode and taking on different development approaches — and its per capita GDP rose to $12,784 in 2011.

The city's economy rose 7.4 percent to 1.44 trillion yuan ($230 billion) in the first nine months of 2012, a rate putting it on the bottom of the list of 27 provinces and municipalities that published their GDP data for the period. It's estimated Shanghai will see a moderate 7.5 percent growth for all of 2012.

Even many central and western cities have surpassed Shanghai GDP growth, which would have been unimaginable in the past, Zhu said.

"There are definitely pressures for Shanghai, but it has a clearer understanding of the importance of ecological development," he added.

Shanghai has shown strong signs it is pursuing a more sustainable development.

According to the city's office of statistics, the service sector played a more important role in its economy and the added value in the sector is expected to have accounted for more than 60 percent of the city's GDP growth in 2012.

Also, consumption replaced investment as the economic motor, and the rise in urban and rural residents' per capita disposable income outpaced the GDP growth rate.

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