China’s nature-based solutions in the Global South: Evidence from Asia, Africa, and Latin America

Annah Lake Zhu*, Niklas Werner Weins, Juliet Lu, Tyler Harlan, Jin Qian, Fabiana Barbi Seleguim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


China increasingly engages in environmental diplomacy through South-South cooperation across the developing world. Since 2019, the rise of the discourse of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) within this cooperation has been exponential. Coined just over ten years ago, NbS refers to the underexplored potential of leveraging the natural world to address socio-environmental challenges. The concept finds particular resonance in China, where it demonstrates strong parallels with the domestically-pioneered concept of Ecological Civilization – the ruling paradigm when it comes to all realms of Chinese environmental governance. Building on the global discourse, NbS has been adapted to the Chinese context, creating what some call “Chinese-style” NbS that prioritizes large-scale interventions and ecological engineering over grassroots preservation. China’s NbS are not only being pursued domestically, but also increasingly abroad through the country’s Belt and Road Initiative. From Southeast and Central Asia to Africa and Latin America, this article surveys Chinese-led or financed projects that fall under the broad umbrella of NbS. We provide a comparative analysis of these interventions – or the conspicuous lack of such interventions – to show the current status and future prospects for China’s growing sphere of influence when it comes to advancing NbS in the Global South. We find that China’s embrace of this concept in environmental diplomacy is directly related to the potential for NbS to serve as a tool for helping the country’s vision of an Ecological Civilization “go global.” The consonance between the rhetoric of NbS and Ecological Civilization, combined with the global reach of NbS, provides a powerful platform for taking Chinese environmental discourse to the global level.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102842
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2024


  • Belt and Road Initiative
  • China
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
  • Global South
  • Green infrastructure
  • Nature-based Solutions


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