Towards a national circular economy indicator system in China: an evaluation and critical analysis

It is widely acknowledged that China's economic miracle has been achieved at the expense of its natural capital and environment. In order to deal with this problem, the circular economy (CE) has been chosen as a national policy for sustainable development. National laws and regulations have been enacted to facilitate the implementation of CE and national CE demonstration projects have been initiated such that national benchmarking activities could be completed. China is the first country to release nationally focused CE indicators so that objective and credible information on the status of CE implementation can be recognized. These CE indicators are valuable metrics for policy and decision-makers and can help achieve CE goals and outcomes. This unique indicator system has not been communicated to international communities. This paper aims to more broadly introduce this unique national CE indicator system. China's CE efforts are first detailed with various provisions of the national indicator system. A critical analysis of such an indicator system is presented. We show that certain benefits can be gained, but substantive revision is also needed due to the lack of a comprehensive set of sustainability indicators which should include social, business indicators, urban/industrial symbiosis, absolute material/energy reduction, and prevention-oriented indicators. Concerns related to barriers on implementation are also presented in this paper. The knowledge gained from Chinese efforts on CE indicators are valuable to both developed and developing nations seeking to implement sustainable development measures within their regulatory policies.