Eco-Human Theory and Practice
ISSN 2713 – 184x
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Zhihe Wang

Ph.D, Director of Institute for Postmodern Development of China, Co-director of China Project, Center for Process Studies (Claremont, CA, USA)

Meijun Fan2

Meijun Fan

Ph.D, Co-Director of China Project, Center for Process Studies (Claremont, CA, USA)


Junfeng Wang

Ph. D, Assistant Researcher, Wenzhou Administrative College, China



For all of its numerous benefits, modernization is a double-edged sword. After wholeheartedly embracing Western-style modernization in the 20th and 21st centuries, China has achieved astonishing world-renowned achievements, most notably in terms of its rapid economic growth and development. However, contemporary China has had to cope with many of the bitter aftertastes of the pill of modernization, especially in regards to the serious ecological crisis faced by most developed countries. In order to avoid the fate of self-destruction of both China and the wider world, a new civilization—ecological civilization—is urgently needed. Different from industrial civilization that holds in the highest regard all things related to machines and tools, an ecological civilization is a civilization that respects nature and aims for the common good of humans and nature. It is the transcendence of modern industrialization, and thus requires a great all-round transformation. Organic-Process thinking can provide a theoretical framework for such an ecological civilization. Although China has made great efforts thus far to create such an ecological civilization, the road toward building one is long and difficult, as there is a great deal of obstacles that must be overcome to reach this goal; counterattacks by interest groups, a linear notion of development, mechanistic materialism, anthropocentrism, scientism, and compartmentalization in the academic world, among many others. Despite all of these serious obstacles, ecological civilization is imperative for China, as China’s future and the health of its environment are closely linked.

Key Words: modernization, industrial civilization, ecological civilization, organic-process thinking, postmodernizm


The fading aura of Western-style modernization in China

As is the case in most developing countries, industrial civilization or, modernization as determined by the West, has been an object of admiration and is considered important to learn from and replicate at home. To undergo and realize the process of modernization has been a dream for the Chinese people over the past 100 years. The establishment of Mao’s new China in 1949 was done for this dream. Subsequently, Deng Xiaoping's paradigm of reform and opening-up was done for this dream as well. In order to make this dream come true, countless Chinese people with lofty ideals have contributed their hard work, wisdom, blood and even their lives. The world-renowned achievements China's economy has made over the past 30 years have given people more reason to believe that the dawn of modernization is just around the corner.

However, while wholeheartedly embracing modernization, the myriad problems that accompany modernization brings with it has been shocking. According to Pan Yue, a leading figure in China’s environmental movement and head of China’s Environmental Protection Ministry, ‘Five of the ten most polluted cities worldwide are in China; acid rain is falling on one third of our territory; half of the water in China’s seven largest rivers is completely useless; a quarter of our citizens lack access to clean drinking water; a third of the urban population is breathing polluted air....’ [28] The societal effects of these problems are obvious. In Pan Yue’s words, ‘Because air and water are polluted, we are losing from 8-15% of our gross domestic product. This does not include the costs for health and human suffering: in Beijing alone, 70-80% of all deadly cancer cases are related to the environment. Lung cancer has emerged as the number one cause of death.’ [28]

It is no secret that modernization has caused serious discords in Chinese society. Prof. Lang Ye, former chair of the philosophy department at Peking University summarizes these discords as the following three imbalances: ‘One is the imbalance between humans’ material life and spiritual life, one is the imbalance of humans’ inner life, and one is the imbalance of humans’ relationship with nature.’ [52] Ms. Liao Xiaoyi, a well-known female Chinese environmentalist, once painfully pointed out that after experiencing the war via which ‘no more country existed except mountains and rivers,” we are now facing a reality where “no more mountains and rivers existed except country.’ [27, p. v] The unprecedented array of serious crises challenges Chinese to reflect on Western-style modernization and the modern industrial civilization dominated by the West.1 To us, the concept of “Chinese-style modernization” which the Chinese government recently proposed can be regarded as a signal which draws a clear line with Western-style modernization.

The severe crisis confronting Western civilization itself has directly strengthened the impetus behind the Chinese people’s reflection and has helped China deconstruct the halo surrounding this highly-regarded civilization. For Pitirim Sorokin, a leading figure in twentieth-century American sociology and a founding professor of the department of sociology at Harvard University, ‘The organism of the Western society and culture seems to be undergoing one of the deepest and most significant crises of its life. The crisis is far greater than the ordinary; its depth is unfathomable, its end not yet in sight, and the whole of the Western society is involved in it. It is the crisis of a Sensate culture, now in its overripe stage, the culture that has dominated the Western World during the last five centuries.’ [36, p. 622]

For the authors of the book, Cobb and China: An Intensive Study of Cobb’s Postmodern Ecological Civilization Thought, modern civilization is one which possesses genes for self-destruction, and ultimately ‘is an unsustainable civilization.’ [12, p. 24] because this is a civilization in which ‘individuals destroy the community, cities destroy the countryside, rationality destroys sensibility, competition destroys harmony, abstraction destroys concrete, consumption destroys life, money destroys spirit, knowledge destroys wisdom, nothingness destroys value, and human beings destroy nature.’ [12, p. 24] As a result, we are facing ‘the impending suicide of the species. [2, p. 32] Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the author of Less is More, boldly claimed that ‘We live in an age of mass extinction.’ [21, p. 14]. In order to avoid the fate of human self-destruction, a new civilization—ecological civilization—is urgently needed.

An ecological civilization is urgently needed

What is Ecological Civilization? While “ecological civilization” has increasingly become a buzzword in both China and the wider world, there is no generally accepted definition of it. The idea of “ecological civilization” was first officially proposed by the Chinese government at the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2007. The goal is to form ‘an energy and resource efficient, environment friendly structure of industries, pattern of growth, and mode of consumption.’ [22] This concept reflects an important change in the Party's understanding of development. Rather than emphasizing economic growth as the core of development as it did in the past, the Party authorities have come to realize that sustainable development must be based on an understanding of an intertwined relationship between humanity and nature.

At the 18th Congress held from Nov. 8-14, 2012, President Hu Jintao mentioned the term “Ecological Civilization” 15 times in his report. The Congress even wrote the goal of constructing an ecological civilization into the CPC constitution. Hu said, 'We must give high priority to creating an ecological civilization, work hard to build a beautiful country, and achieve lasting and sustainable development of the Chinese nation.' [23] Hu gave ecological civilization a prominent position in terms of political priority by incorporating it into the country's overall development plan together with economic, political, cultural and social progress. In his report, Hu called for efforts to keep more farmland for farmers, and leave to future generations a beautiful homeland with green fields, clean water and a blue sky.

To Xi Jinping, the current leader of China, ‘Ecological civilization represents the development trend of human civilization.’ [51] For Xi, creating an ecological civilization is a cause which ‘benefits both contemporaries and future generations.’ [50] In short, the concept of ecological civilization is spoken of as a responsibility of the Chinese government to future generations and to the natural world.

In Chinese academia, generally speaking, there are two understandings of ecological civilization, the broad and the chivalrous, namely “the repair theory” and “the transcendental view”. Believing that ecological civilization is merely a new dimension of civilization, the “repair theory” argues that we can repair the relationship between humans and nature within the framework of modern civilization by advocating the construction of ecological civilization. In contrast, “transcendence theory” advocates the thorough transformation of modern industrial civilization from material civilization, spiritual civilization, political civilization, social civilization and other aspects, and ultimately achieves not only the harmony of humans and nature, but also the harmony between and among humans themselves. “Transcendence Theory” argues that ecological civilization will be a brand-new type of civilization that surpasses industrial civilization and altogether represents a wholly new stage of civilizational development beyond the primitive, agricultural, and industrial stages that preceded it. Per the proponents of the transcendence theory, ecological civilization is ultimately an advanced form of civilization [53].

We the authors identify ourselves as adherents of the transcendence school. We regard ecological civilization as a counterattack against and a surpassing of industrial civilization. It is ‘the sum of all material, institutional and spiritual things created by human beings in an ecological production and lifestyle.’ [57, p. 5] For us, ecological civilization is not just about isolated efforts toward reforestation and energy conservation, despite these things being vital components thereof. It is about creating a life-affirming civilization which is entirely different from its industrial predecessor, which regards all things as machines and tools to be used towards an economic end. Ecological civilization is a civilization that enshrines respect for nature and aiming for the common good of humans and nature as key tenets of its underlying philosophy. Too often, affirming an ecological civilization is misconstrued as little more than being conscious of ecological issues, but this is not the case. In fact, ecological civilization calls for profound changes and ‘even significant sacrifices.’ [10] Therefore, ecological civilization is rather an enormous transition for society as a whole. In the words of Dr. Meijun Fan, ‘ecological civilization is a great and all-round transformation.’ [15]

Organic-process thinking and ecological civilization

Since building an ecological civilization is an unprecedented and vitally important cause, it therefore requires a fundamentally new kind of thinking, as the solidified, static mechanical thinking that serves as the philosophical foundation of industrial civilization has exposed itself as possessing a great deal of defects and has contributed much towards bringing disastrous consequences to both human society and our beautiful planet [11]. We call this new style of thinking organic process thinking.” This so-called "organic process thinking" is a kind of comprehensive thinking based on process philosophy. It regards becoming, change and creativity as the essential attributes of its ontology, and regards organic relationships as being constitutive of all things. "Organic process thinking" can be divided into broad and narrow senses. In its broad sense, organic process thinking refers to all worldviews both ancient and modern, which emphasize becoming and changing over static being, interrelationship over self-contained substance. Organic process thinking in the narrow sense refers to the process philosophy or philosophy of organism founded by Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), a British mathematician, physicist and philosopher, and inherited and developed by John Cobb Jr., Charles Hartshorne, and David Griffin.

Organic process thinking regards the universe as an organic whole, ‘viewing the world as an interconnected system.’ [33] The universe as a whole is viewed as a seamless web of interconnected events, none of which can be completely separated from the others. Everything is connected to everything else and contained in everything else.’ [31, p. 33] Every entity in the universe is regarded as ‘a process of becoming that emerges through its interaction with others.’ [31, p. 33]. Organic process thinking stresses that we are not only deeply connected with other people, but with everything else in the universe. As such, the interconnection and interdependence of all things is the core idea of organic process thinking. According to futurists Rick Smyre and Neil Richardson, Probably the most important ongoing historical transition is the shift from the core idea of independence to the core idea of interdependence.’ [35, p. 94] This transition marks a journey to realize that all life forms, both human and non-human, are interconnected together, they are co-rooted in an ever-unfolding meaningful, co-creative process.

Organic process thinking has a profound philosophical foundation in China, because, being the nation of the Book of Changes, the Chinese nation can be said to be ‘a nation of process thinking.’ [42] To Joseph Needham, the Chinese peoples view of the universe and nature are “organicist”: ‘The mechanical view of the world simply did not develop in Chinese thought, and the organicist view in which every phenomenon was connected with every other according to hierarchical order was universal among Chinese thinkers.’ [32] According to the investigation of the famous comparative philosopher Roger Ames, processual cosmology or “correlative cosmology”, in his terms as “common sense”, has a long history in the Chinese cultural tradition [1, p. 41].

In China, the correlative thinking that permits insight into and productive participation in this world of alternations, with its origins dating back at least to the Shang dynasty, is ‘a dominant modality of thinking.’ [1, p. 48]

For Roger Ames, such a correlative cosmology is “an Ecological Cosmology” [1, p. 61], in which the world is regarded as “an invigorated world”. Therefore, there is no place for dualism or dichotomous thinking in such an ecological cosmology. It is not intended to conceptually separate living beings from their environment. There is no ‘any final boundary between the sentient and insentient, animate and inanimate, living and lifeless.’ [1, p. 62]

Ames believes that interconnected thinking can allow people to have a deep understanding and sense of participation in this ever-changing world. As a “treasure”, China’s philosophy of interconnectedness ‘offer[s] opportunities to reframe our views of reality in a way that may be much more in service of well-being on a healthy planet.’ [15, p.75]

With the expansion of globalization and the widespread application of the Internet, today’s world has progressively become a global village and countries are increasingly becoming a community with a shared fate. According to the authors of What is ecological civilization?  ‘Ecological civilization is not just about the harmonious coexistence of human beings and nature. It also requires humans to live in peace with each other so that all life can flourish.’ [3, p. 11] In other words, ‘If modern industrial civilization is a civilization that favors fighting and has faith in “Survival of the Fittest”, then a postmodern ecological civilization should be a civilization that cherishes harmony and “Survival of the Harmonious.’ [13] Therefore, promoting organic process thinking is not only a need of our times but is also a need of an ecological civilization.

In addition to its growing prominence in China, organic process thinking has also received increasing attention in the contemporary West, as evidenced by the “process turn” or “relational turn” taking place in the contemporary West [45]. A recent study has shown that organic process thinking has recently gained increasing prominence across academic disciplines in an attempt to understand complex phenomena in terms of constitutive processes and relations. Interdisciplinary fields of study, such as science and systemic technology studies (STS), the environmental humanities, and post-humanism, for example, have started to reformulate academic understanding of nature-cultures based on relational thinking, and is said to help ‘overcome the current fragmentation in academia and science.’ [7] Since interdependence is a core attribute of life, and mutual achievement is the sublimation of life, organic process thinking calls for a consciousness of sharing destine." The so-called consciousness of sharing destine” is to realize that we and others share the same fate, breathe the same breath, share the same destiny, share weal and woe, suffer both losses and prosperity [46].

It can be said that, according to organic process thinking, the interconnection and interdependence of all things is the reality of the universe. Without such a cognitive awakening, it is impossible to build an ecological civilization.

The future of China

With regards to the future of China, the world's largest developing country, with a population of over 1.4 billion people and a history of more than 5,000 years, no one can offer an accurate prediction. Nevertheless, we believe that one thing is certain; that is, China's future and the destiny of the ecological civilization ideal are closely linked. If China’s efforts towards building ecological civilization succeed, China will prosper. Conversely, if China fails to transform itself into an ecological civilization, China will fail, as the paradigm of modern industrial civilization is a dead end. As such, does the ecological civilization project have a bright future in China? The answer is not straightforward. Different people may offer different answers to this question.

In contrast with many of their Western contemporaries who are bearish on China’s general prospects in the coming years, most process thinkers and constructive postmodern philosophers have been optimistic about China’s future. John B. Cobb, Jr, ‘one of the most important living philosophers residing in the West’ [40, p. 4] is an outstanding representative in this regard, who has remained steadfast in claiming that the hope of Ecological Civilization lies in China.’ [5] In an interview with the chief editor of the Journal of China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, he firmly stated that, ‘China is the place most likely to realize ecological civilization in the world today.’ [9]. David Ray Griffin, a prestigious process philosopher and a leading figure in the constructive postmodernist movement also emphasized that ‘there is little doubt that China offers more hope than the US in creating an ecological civilization.’ [20] Process thinkers’ views on the matter of ecological civilization and China’s role in creating it have stoked widespread controversy among the Chinese people. Some people in China greatly appreciate their ideas, while others oppose them. Some critics in China have claimed that Dr. Cobb ‘knows little about China’ [29], while others have even accused him of ‘trying to fool China in the name of advocating ecological civilization in order to contain China's development.’ [12, p. 176]

What led these world-class thinkers to make such positive judgments, given that China still faces a wide range of rigorous problems, including serious pollution, economic inequality, censorship, and human rights violations, as repeatedly reported every day by some Western mainstream media? Process thinkers like Cobb and Griffin have provided a number of arguments to support their points of view. Some of the reasons they cite as evidence to support their belief in China’s potential for building an ecological civilization include, but are not limited to, the fact that China’s political system, namely its socialist system, aims at serving the greater good of the people and the nation, rather than being beholden solely or disproportionately to the interests of money and the classes who possess it; the fact that Western-style modernity only has around 100 years of history in China and its ideological roots have not yet penetrated too deeply into Chinese society and thought; the fact that Chinese traditional culture and philosophy, which are themselves (as previously demonstrated) inherently process thought-oriented, still exist and have strong vitality in Chinese society; and the fact that China still has millions of rural villages which house a substantial proportion of China’s population, unlike the West where the vast majorities reside in urban areas [22, pp. 176-184].

Among these reasons, one of them is particularly worth expanding upon further; that is, the fact that process-oriented Chinese traditional culture still exists and has vigorous vitality and influence among the Chinese people. For Cobb, Chinese culture as a process-oriented culture 'is an ecological culture at root', which 'has the power to save the world' [6]. With regards to the process orientation of Chinese culture, Jay McDaniel, a distinguished process philosopher, provides an eloquent analysis: 'Philosophical Daoism speaks of the universe as a flowing process of which humans are an integral part and encourages them to dwell in harmony with the larger whole.' [30] At the same time, ‘Chinese Buddhism in the Hua Yen tradition gives us the image of a universe in which every entity is present in every other entity in a network of inter-existence or inter-being.’ [30]

As a dominant ideology, Confucianism itself also possesses a deep ecological dimension since it confirms the relationality not only between and among humans but also between humans and nature. According to Mary Evelyn Tucker, a Senior Lecturer at Yale University with appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a leading figure in Confucian studies in the West, ‘From the classical texts to the latter neo-Confucian writings there is a strong sense of nature as a relational whole in which human life and society flourishes… More importantly, for the Confucians nature is seen as dynamic and transformational.’ [39, p. 130]. The acceptance and appreciation of Whiteheadian process thought in contemporary China has proved from another angle that China has fertile soil for the flourishing of organic-process thinking.

In addition to the establishment of more than 30 centers devoted to the study of process thought in China, almost all of Whitehead's works have been translated and published in China; Hundreds of articles on process philosophy, constructive postmodernism, and organic Marxism have been published in China; More than a hundred conferences on process thought were held in China in recent years [47]. More importantly, organic process thinking has been creatively applied in a variety of fields and disciplines, and accordingly, many new branches of process thinking have emerged, such as process agriculture, process poetics, process jurisprudence, postmodern agriculture, constructive postmodern community, organic education, Tongren Education, Retu Education, organic Marxism, Organic Aesthetics, postmodern ecological civilization, organic diplomacy, organic linguistics, and a number of others. On Wednesday, November 14, 2011, Wenhui Daily, a highly influential Chinese daily newspaper, published an article by Yijie Tang, professor of Peking University and a leading scholar in Chinese philosophy, in which he wrote: ‘The influence of process thought or constructive postmodernism has kept increasing in China. Two broad intellectual trends are influential in China today: (1) the zeal for ‘national essence’ or ‘national character,’ and (2) ‘Constructive postmodernism.’ These two trends can, under the guidance of Marxism, not only take root in China, but so develop that, with comparative ease, China can complete its “First Enlightenment” of modernization, and also quickly enter into the “Second Enlightenment”, becoming the standard-bearer of a postmodern society.’ [37].

It is worth noting that this statement by Professor Tang was subsequently selected as “one of the most valuable points of view in 2012 in China.” [4]

Process thought or constructive postmodernism2 is regarded by some Chinese scholars as ‘not only the most dynamically and creatively advanced philosophy in the nowadays world, but also a whole new guidance theory to newcomers striving for modernization to achieve their goal preferably.’ [48] To Peking University professor Danyun Yue, a leading figure in comparative literature in China, ‘Constructive postmodernism which provides positive answers to possible human future life is an effective cure to the problems facing the world.’ [54] David Griffin is also convinced that constructive postmodernism has a very important role to play in overcoming the anthropocentric worldview and values associated with modernism because ‘constructive postmodernism is ecological in the real sense since it provides support for the ecology.’ [19, p. xi]. This explains why Chinese environmentalists ‘prefer constructive postmodernism as represented by David Griffin’ [55], said Fanren Zeng, former president of Shandong University, who is a co-founder of Eco-aesthetics in China. To Shenzhen University professor Xiaohua Wang, a distinguished Chinese ecological thinker, ‘the fate of human beings and the whole eco-system will be determined by whether the postmodern turn succeeds.’ [43]

‘Which direction China should take if she does not want to pursue hegemonism? Which kind of culture will benefit both China and the world?’, asked Prof. Yijie Tang. For Tang, ‘I think going to constructive postmodernism is a better choice.’ [38]. This is without doubt the better choice because Constructive Postmodernism can help China avoid the destructive effects of modernization by learning from the mistakes made by the Western world in its pursuit thereof and utilize these lessons to creatively build a new civilizationecological civilizationby integrating the best aspects of modern civilization and traditional culture. With the ongoing revival of Chinese traditional culture, which is happening in no small part due to active promotion from the Chinese government, we are convinced that process studies in China is destined to have a brilliant future. Together with Chinese traditional culture, it will provide a strong theoretical underpinning for an ecological civilization. Herein lies another reason for people to have hope in China's future as an ecological civilization.

Regarding the significant number of problems China presently faces, it must be said in no uncertain terms that ‘China’s problems are real.’ [25] But China’s unremitting efforts and genuine drive to create an ecological civilization are just as real. As evidenced by China being the nation which produced such foundational works as the I Ching (The Book of Changes), organic process thinking is already embedded in China’s civilizational and philosophical DNA. In the words of John Cobb, for Chinese ‘[t]here is no bias towards process and becoming.’ [6]. This reflects that the Chinese people know that change is not only possible, but is an essential attribute of all that exists in our universe.

The great efforts the Chinese people have made thus far to create an ecological civilization are not only reflected in the fact that “ecological civilization” is written into both the Party Constitution of the Communist Party of China and in the national constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and has become ‘a central policy objective of the government’ [17], not only in the fact the performance of government officials in China will no longer be evaluated based on GDP, nor only in the facts that ‘China now has close to half of the world’s installed photovoltaic capacity. Over half of the world’s new energy vehicles run on roads in China, and China contributes one-fourth of increased area of afforestation in the world.’ [49]. This is also reflected in the ecological awakening of ordinary people. To cite one example of this growing phenomenon, at a conference on ecological civilization and zero-pollution villages held in 2019 in Xiaotangshan, Beijing, 300 participants, consisting of villagers, village leaders, NGO employees and local government officials, left not one single empty mineral water bottle after a two day-long conference, as many of the participants opted to bring their own water bottles instead. This deeply impressed Dr. Cobb and ourselves who personally participated in this event and delivered speeches at it.

The Chinese business community has also started taking action to make its own unique contribution to the cause of ecological civilization by making an ecological turn in their business practices, with the stated goal being ‘to promote the green transformation of China’s economy and the green economic development of the world.’ [18] The Alashan project is but one concrete example of this trend; on June 5, 2004, one hundred noted entrepreneurs established the Social Entrepreneur Ecology NGO, or “SEE”. The 100 initiators of this organization each promised to contribute 100 thousand RMB per year to deal with the sand-dust storms that plagued the Alashan region of Inner Mongolia. The participants in the project have committed 100 million RMB to this undertaking over the span of 10 years [44]. The Alashan project and many other initiatives like it signal something new: Chinese entrepreneurs beginning consciously to shoulder social and ecological responsibility.’ [4]

Li Wenliang’s Taiwei company also exemplifies this new entrepreneurial undercurrent. Over the years, Li Wenliang, the founder of Taiwei (Dongguan Taiwei Electronics Co., Ltd), a private company with 500 employees located in Dongguan, Shenzhen in Guangdong province, conducted extensive studies and research in the developed Western countries and ultimately recognized the unsustainability of the indulgent hedonism prevalent in mainstream Western societies. Recognizing the necessity to return to a more sustainable model of economic development, Li integrated the principles of the Chinese cultural value of “Tian Ren He Yi(Harmony between Heaven, Earth, and Humans) into the core values of the company in 2005, and began actively exploring a philosophy of modern business management with a Chinese-style approach. After a decade of exploration, Li and his team developed the 51-25-24 ownership structure, a mechanism of corporate governance embodying Tian Ren He Yi and advocating sustainable development. The 51-25-24 mechanism entails the conversion of 51% of the company's equity into a public welfare fund, making Chinese society the majority shareholder of the enterprise and aligning business practices and policy with the will of naturethe Way of heaven, or “Tian Dao”. Among other things, this policy offers subsidies for employees to consume organic food, promotes a virtuous cycle of organic cultivation, and supports regular rural service programs. Additionally, 25% of the equity is transformed into employee-operated equity, fostering a sense of unity among all employees. The remaining 24% is retained as capital equity, with original shareholders becoming the third-largest stakeholders. A board is formed by combining capital and operational directors, creating a corporate governance structure which emphasizes collective prosperity and ecological values.

In order to provide organic food for employees’ three meals a day, Taiwei has established many organic farms all over China. Not only that, Taiwei has also joined forces with other enterprises to promote rural revitalization in China, encouraging some farmers to adopt organic farming and promoting the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas. Li Wenliang believes that eating organic, growing organic, and living an organic life are a golden key to solving social problems. For him, ‘The countryside is the lifeblood of the city. Agriculture is the lifeblood of industry. Organic farming is the lifeblood of agriculture.’ [26]

The aforementioned examples illustrate that China, despite the numerous challenges it faces in this regard, is indeed walking the path toward an ecological civilization. As Dr. Cobb stated, ‘We can have considerable confidence that China as a nation is genuinely committed and that the people share a hope for becoming an ecological civilization.’ [40, p11]   However, it would be naive and wishful thinking if were to fail to realize the immense impediments that lie on the road to ecological civilization in China. Putting aside the fact that the international atmosphere, which continues to be dominated by industrial civilization and its law of the jungle, remains resistant to ecological civilization, even within China itself the cause of ecological civilization has encountered significant resistance. Among these obstacles, of course, the resistance from special interest groups is a particularly acute one. But various obsolete worldviews have also played a significant role in opposing the construction of ecological civilization. The following viewpoints represent some of the primary perspectives in this regard:

(1). Linear notion of development: Influenced by orthodox Marxism which places emphasis on the development of advanced productive forces and treats history as a linear process, i.e. the notion that China needs to fully realize industrialization or modernization first and address ecological issues to create ecological civilization later, many Chinese people believe that history must inevitably follow a linear model of development through successive defined stages of increasing sophistication: namely, premodern, modern, and postmodern. They believe that China must first become modern before becoming postmodern. This belief is squarely based on such a linear conception of progress, and from this ideology the idea of “pollution first, treatment later” gained some legitimacy [24].

(2). Mechanistic materialism: Some scholars in China are still deeply influenced by mechanistic materialism which rests on the assumption that ‘there is nothing other than matter.’ [20] Accordingly, a mechanistic view of nature denies nature any purpose or capacity for self-movement. Nature is regarded as something passive, “a mere resource pit” for human beings’ use [16]. It is obvious that mechanistic materialism and anthropocentrism cohere as philosophies, and together constitute a strong ideological resistance to ecological civilization.

(3). Scientism: Closely related to mechanistic materialism, scientism is still very powerful in China due to the deep influence of China’s First Enlightenment in 1919. The doctrine of scientism, which regards science as the only legitimate form of knowledge and ‘the source of correct knowledge’ [34]. For some scientists in contemporary China, the ecological civilization camp’s call to “revere nature” is unscientific.’ [56].

Apart from the above-mentioned examples of the ideological opposition in China to ecological civilization, compartmentalization in the academic world demands our attention as well. The departments in universities divide scholars into rigid disciplines. Many scholars are reluctant to engage in the type of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary thinking and engagement that ecological civilization urgently needs. They worry that such thinking compromises the purity of their respective disciplines or challenges inherent assumptions in ways that impede progress within their areas of specialization. 

Although all of these obstacles are quite serious and will prove to be undoubtedly difficult to overcome, ecological civilization is imperative to China. Because China’s choice at this historic turning point would produce a far-reaching impact not only on China itself, but also on the wider world. For Cobb, if China makes the right choice and works hard to forge ahead toward ecological civilization, ‘it may yet lead the world, indeed, save it.’ [8] In this sense, China’s ecological civilization is indeed our common great cause which is worth our unwavering pursuit.


1 Among those writings on reflection on modernization, Wu Guosheng’s Worries about modernization (Life· Reading· New Knowledge Sanlian Bookstore, 1999and Wen Tiejun’s Deconstructing Modernization (Guangdong People's Publishing House, 2004) can be regarded as representatives.

2Alfred North Whitehead wrote a book with the title "Science and the Modern World" that celebrated the accomplishments of modernity but showed that it was also coming to an end.  There and in subsequent writings he described the shift, for example, from mechanistic to organic thinking. His followers spoke of his proposals as "postmodern". French intellectuals, quite independently, used the term to identify ways of deconstructing modern thought. To emphasize that Whitehead's purpose is to build on a critical evaluation of  modernity and to go beyond it, his followers called their program “constructive postmodernism.” 


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Reference for citations

Wang, Z., Fan, M., Wang, J. (2024). Ecological civilization, organic-process thinking and the future of China in the global context. Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 5(1). [open access internet journal]. – URL: (d/m/y)

About the journal

In accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation on the Mass Media, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) on September 22, 2020, the web-based publication - The peer-reviewed scientific online journal "Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice" was registered (registration number El No. FS77-79134).

“Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice” is the international multidisciplinary Journal focused on building an eco-human paradigm, disseminating eco-human knowledge and technology based on the alliance of ecology, humanities and the arts. Our journal aims to be a vibrant forum of theories and practices aimed at harmonizing the relations of mankind and the natural world in the interests of sustainable development, the creation of Eco-Humanity as a new community of human beings and more-than-human world. The human being is an ecological being, not separate from the world. The Ecopoiesis journal is based on that premise and aims to develop a body of theory and practice within that framework.

The Journal promotes dialogue and cooperation between ecologists, philosophers, doctors, educators, psychologists, artists, musicians, designers, social activists, business representatives in the name of eco-human values, human health and well-being, in close connection with concern for the environment. The Journal supports the development and implementation of new environmentally-friendly concepts, technologies and practices in the various fields of health and public life, education and social work.

One of the priority tasks of the Journal is to demonstrate and support the significant role of the arts in their alliance with ecology and the humanities for the restoration and development of constructive relations with nature, raising environmental awareness and promoting nature-friendly lifestyles.

The Journal publishes articles describing new eco-human concepts and practices, technologies and applied research data at the intersection of humanities, ecology and the arts, as well as interviews and conference reports related to the emerging eco-human field. It encourages artwork, music and other creative products related to eco-human practices and the new global community of Eco-Humanity.