Greening Chinese agriculture: can China use the EU experience?

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Purpose: China's Government in 2015 announced its goal of stabilizing the use of fertilizers and pesticide by the year 2020. However, implementation of effective policies is not straightforward, while one may even argue that the policy goal is by far not ambitious enough. Hence, it is useful to look at experiences of other countries that have gone through a similar process. In this paper, the authors explicitly consider the case of European Union's (EU’s) policies aimed at greening agriculture. The choice for the EU is motivated by the fact that the EU is about 35 years ahead of China in implementing a policy agenda to counter the problems China is facing now. Design/methodology/approach: In this paper, the authors focus on agricultural inputs, in particular fertilizer and pesticides, as well as land use and their impact on food safety, air and water quality, soil degradation, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and biodiversity. Policies related to those issues are discussed for both, China and the EU. Given that implementation and monitoring are critical for the success of policies, the authors also discuss how policies are implemented and monitored under different governance and institutional conditions. Findings: From the EU experiences, positive and negative, three central lessons are drawn: (1) China should strive for cross compliance but in two steps. In the first step, arrangements for on-farm monitoring must be made, coupled with a pilot program of cross-compliance conditions for large farms in selected counties; in the second step, cross-compliance requirements must be introduced for all farmers, with additional funds for rural development in vulnerable areas. (2) Strong stakeholder commitment should be sought in the formulation as well as implementation of greening policies. (3) Monitoring of greening results should be harmonized and standardized across the country, with a limited number of indicators. Originality/value: This paper contributes to the policy discussion by comparing the agricultural greening measures in the EU (which was some 35 years ago in the same situation as China now) with the measures taken in China so far.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-123
Number of pages28
Issue number1
Early online date21 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2021


  • Greening agriculture
  • Rural development
  • China's Agricultural Reform
  • CAP reform
  • Pollution control
  • Q01
  • Q18
  • Q52
  • Q53
  • Q58


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