Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (8): 1171-1186.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1891-3

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Economic sustainability of China's growth from the perspective of its resource and environmental supply system: National scale modeling and policy analysis

NIU Fangqu1,2(), JIANG Yanpeng3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Collaborative Innovation Center for Geopolitical Setting of Southwest China and Borderland Development, Kunming 650500, China
    3. Institute for Global Innovation and Development, Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2020-10-14 Accepted:2020-12-20 Online:2021-08-25 Published:2021-10-25
  • About author:Niu Fangqu (1979‒), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in urban and regional sustainable development modeling. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071153);Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA20080000)


Since the implementation of the economic reform and opening up policy in 1978, China has miraculously created long-term high-speed economic growth, but has also had to face the problem of excessive consumption of resources as well as an intensification of environmental pollution. As a result, China is now facing a slowdown in development. China must maintain a certain speed of development to realize its goal of being a powerful nation, and becoming a developed country by 2050. To this end, China is facing a transformation of its economic development. There is a need to agree on an expected economic growth rate, along with the corresponding development modes or means of regulation in the medium- and long-term periods. This study developed a systematic-dynamic model to simulate the coupling relationship between economic growth, development modes, and the environmental supply system, and explored the possible options for future economic growth as well as the resource use and environmental protection requirements (the main factors). The results showed that to achieve the development goal of becoming a developed country by 2050, while maintaining a good ecological environment, the suitable growth rate for China's economy is 3.8%-6.3%. Within this range, a growth rate of 3.8%-4.4% was found to be relatively safe, while a growth rate of 4.4%-6.3% required further technical progress. This study provides an early warning in regard to China's environmental and development status. The study was a response to the “Future Earth” framework document and, in terms of development speed, it developed a theoretical system for the determination of resource and environmental carrying capacity (RECC).

Key words: sustainable development, growth rate, resource and environmental carrying capacity (RECC), systematic-dynamic model (SD), China