With rapid development since the 1970s, China is entering a period of social transformation, which not only creates favorable conditions for sustainable development but also presents new challenges. The transitional period in China is a stage in which two types of social transformation coexist, the first is the social transformation from agricultural society to industrial society; the second is the transition from industrial society to postindustrial society. In this process of social transformation, new challenges arise for sustainable development in China. In the first layer of social transformation, we respond to the challenges presented by the social transformation through the establishment of basic principles of environmental law, legal enforcement mechanisms, basic legal regimes and so on. In the second layer of social transformation, the advent of a risk society raised new challenges to environmental law, including that of adjusting the function of environmental law, strengthening the precautionary principle, diversification of implementation mechanisms, and development of the preventive function of legal regimes. In order to better respond to these challenges, we should proceed with the following aspects: improve the legal functions of environmental law, including guaranteeing public security, ecological security and the coordination of multiple interests; expand and develop the content of the principle of prevention, and replace the polluter pays principle by the causer responsibility principle; combine administrative measures with economic incentives, and while setting government as the main executive body, effectively operate public participation mechanisms; expand the scope of environmental impact assessment of projects, and establish planning environmental impact assessment, build up and improve information disclosure system, and establish environmental risk assessment system and green tax system. © 2014 by the authors.
Qin, T. (2014). Challenges for sustainable development and its legal response in China: A perspective for social transformation. Sustainability (Switzerland), 6(8), 5075–5106. https://doi.org/10.3390/su6085075