Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 74 ›› Issue (12): 2604-2613.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201912013

• Resources, Environment and Sustainable Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Modelling the sustainability of China's growth based on the resource and environmental carrying capacity

NIU Fangqu1,2, SUN Dongqi1()   

  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
  • Received:2019-05-29 Revised:2019-11-26 Online:2019-12-25 Published:2019-12-25
  • Contact: SUN Dongqi
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation(41971162);National Key Research and Development Program(2016YFC0503506)


Since the reform and opening up in 1978, China has created a miracle of long-term high-speed economic growth, but the relationship between man and nature has suffered a serious damage, which is highlighted by the excessive consumption of resources and the intensification of environmental pollution. As a result, China is facing a slowdown in development. At the same time, China needs to maintain a certain speed of development in order to realize the dream of a powerful nationality entering the ranks of developed countries in 2050. To this end, China is facing transformation development. Now Chinese scholars and governments need to answer this kind of question: What economic growth rate is expected along with the corresponding development modes or means of regulation in the medium and long term? The growth development mode of the national economy is influenced and even dominated by the resource and environment support system. This study is intended to reveal the coupling relationship between economic growth, development modes and the supporting system, simulate the interaction process between them, explore the possible options for future economic growth and its requirements for the resource and environmental support system (the main factors), and provide early warning regarding China's environmental and development status. The results show that in order to achieve the development goal of entering the ranks of developed countries in 2050 and maintaining a fine ecological environment, the suitable growth rate for China's economy is 3.8%-6.3% on the premise that technological progress will improve resource utilization efficiency and reduce pollution emissions. Within this speed range, on the one hand, the smaller development velocity may be adopted to reduce the pressure on resources and environment, on the other hand, higher velocity can be adopted given that we are optimistic about the technological advances. The model proposed could help to compare different development scenarios and determine a better development mode; this way provides decision support for sustainable development. This study is a response to the "Future Earth" framework document. It develops the theoretical system of the resource and environmental carrying capacity in terms of development speed. It has important theoretical exploration significance and application value.

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