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James Oswald

James Oswald

Research Topic

Thesis: Understanding China's "Eco-civilisation" project and its implications for the Chinese people

The aim of this project is to research the significance of the Chinese ecological concept of ‘shengtai wenming' (生态文明), or ‘Eco-civilisation'. This research first involves examining articles and books by leading Chinese academics focussed on environmental issues, to try and discern the main concepts behind ‘eco-civilisation'. This study so far has discovered that the key environmental issues that the ‘eco-civilisation' project seeks to address are food safety and security, desertification, fresh water contamination and depletion, resource depletion, climate change and loss of biodiversity. While these issues are not confined to China, there are existent circumstances in China that make these issues particularly pressing, such as a large and increasing population and a disproportionate share of the world's arable land and fresh water resources, exacerbated by an uneven distribution and widespread degradation and pollution of these scarce resources. This study will include findings from limited fieldwork conducted in various rural areas around northern and southern China whose local economy rely on different industries as their chief source of income. This research primarily asks the questions: What does "Eco-civilisation" mean, and is it a uniquely "Chinese" concept? What would an "Eco-civilisation" look like? How does the government plan to achieve this goal? How are environmental issues understood at different levels in society in China?


James started his PhD in 2013, receiving the Prime Minister's Postgraduate Scholarship later that year enabling him to conduct a year of in-country research based at Renmin University of China; he was also recently awarded the Hanban PhD Joint Fellowship award allowing him to continue his studies in China until mid-2015.

James worked as an electrician for a major Australian biscuit manufacturer for five years before deciding to change careers and enrol in university. He started a Bachelor of International Studies in 2006, completing many of the courses on offer at the CAS, also spending a year of his studies in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, studying Mandarin at Hebei North University (河北北方学院). He completed his Bachelor with a Diploma in Languages (Mandarin) in 2010, after which James took a year break from study to work before being goaded into joining the CAS in 2012 by his supervisor, Dr Xianlin Song. His Honours project was titled "W(h)ither Caijiaying? A case study as evidence for how globalisation is transforming rural China".

Department of Asian Studies
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