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2023 Wang Dao Sustainability Index

2023 Wang Dao Sustainability Index: Navigating Post-Pandemic Challenges with a Focus on Environmental Crisis



Post-COVID-19, global inequality trends show signs of easing. The environmental crisis emerges as the next decade's primary challenge, offering opportunities for eco-friendly development. South Asian countries lead in post-pandemic recovery dynamic, with Western European nations excelling in sustainable development, outperforming the most regions in annual performance and growth in 2023 WDSI evaluation.



Foundation of Chinese Culture for Sustainable Development recently released the 2023 "Wang Dao Sustainability Index" (WDSI), the first measure of sustainable development integrating Confucian concept of "Wang Dao". Covering 169 economies, it evaluates sustainable development performances from a unique Chinese cultural concept.


According to the 2023 rankings, the top 30 countries are predominantly European, with Nordic countries notably leading, as Sweden, Denmark, and Finland occupy the top three positions. Canada and Spain, tied for the 10th spot, are the best-performing countries outside Europe. In Asia, Japan ranks 25th, Taiwan 41st, and mainland China falls to 46th, while the USA climbs to 33rd. War-torn Ukraine and Russia face setbacks, sliding to 66th and 98th places, respectively.


The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered sustainable development practices worldwide. The trend analysis from 2018-2023 WDSI results shows a downturn in 2020, reaching a peak of global inequality. This inequality is now easing, narrowing the gap and gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels, suggesting a slow shift towards greater global equality, contrary to pessimistic forecasts during the pandemic.


WDSI encompasses three major domains: "Global Ethics," "Inclusive Development," and "Environmental Equilibrium." In 2023, the "Global Ethics" domain experienced fluctuations due to the Ukraine crisis and the pandemic, but it rebounded with the resumption of international exchanges and trade activities. The "Inclusive Development" domain, representing economic growth and social justice, has stagnated, facing challenges like economic downturns, food and energy crises, inflation, and government debt. The continuous decline in the "Environmental Equilibrium" domain reflects unprecedented survival risks and challenges for humanity. The biggest risk for the next decade will be the environmental crisis, offering countries rapidly achieving carbon neutrality a headstart in the energy transition and new growth opportunities through green technology development.


Additionally, the 2023 report highlights the progress in South Asia, Western Europe, and North America as the world extensively enters the post-pandemic era. South Asia's strong recovery momentum post-pandemic is remarkable. Western European countries, long exemplars in sustainable performance, lead other regions in annual results and are second only to South Asia in growth trends. In contrast, East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean face negative growth challenges, with East Asia's decline especially reflected in setbacks in inclusive development. The pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in global cooperation mechanisms, underscoring the strategic value of Regional Organizations.


Foundation of Chinese Culture for Sustainable Development first published the "Wang Dao Sustainability Index" in 2018, with five editions released to date. The WDSI's core concept, derived from Mencius's "Wang Dao" or "Kingly Way," has been reinterpreted in a modern context by researchers. The index identifies five core elements: "Benevolent Governance," "Anti-hegemony," "People-orientedness," "Sustainability," and "Empathy." These elements combine to define three critical domains for 21st-century human sustainable development: "Global Ethics," "Inclusive Development," and "Environmental Equilibrium," offering significant intellectual content for global development and serving as a crucial tool in national governance and global development strategies.