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Sustainable development global ranking reshuffle

Sweden ranked top, while US scored lowest among developed nations



Could this mark a national sustainable development competition reshuffle? Sweden, Norway, and Denmark scored among the top three, while the United States and People’s Republic of China—on which the global economic outlook hinges—earned 35th and 40th place, respectively. These are the results of the world's first global ranking index to incorporate a traditional Chinese cultural precept into the development of sustainable development indices, smashing stereotypical perceptions and providing the world with an intriguing sustainable development framework to better address the yearnings of the global community.


In the past, governments around the world spoke of national competitiveness primarily in terms economic and technological development. However, after excessive development, the pendulum has swung the other way in recent years, and pursuit of sustainability has become a new universal value. To clearly demarcate the sustainability performance of each country, Chao-shiuan Liu, former Premier of the Republic of China, became Chairman of the Foundation of Chinese Culture for Sustainable Development. He spent two years preparing the Wang Dao Sustainability Index (WDSI), initially selecting 74 representative countries/economies for assessment and ranking through utilization of the world's important public databases. The WDSI is based on the principles of Benevolent Governance, Counter-hegemony, People-orientedness, Sustainability and Empathy. Its constituent indices are rigorously formulated into three core domains: Global Ethics, Inclusive Development and Environmental Equilibrium. These fully correspond to the three pillars or circles of Economic Development, Environmental Equilibrium and Social Equity proposed in the United Nations 1987 Brundtland Report "Our Common Future," and to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals proposed in 2015. The coefficient of correspondence between the two sets is as high as 0.9, which attests to the universality of the WDSI's global sustainable development rankings.


Most noteworthy is that the WDSI rankings smash stereotypes about developing countries and allow the world to re-examine the current situation of each country from a different perspective. In overall ranking, the top 10 countries were Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland, and Slovenia; while those labeled as “superpowers” or BRICS all ended up ranked beneath this select group. Furthermore, in terms of the respective performances of countries in the three major domains defined by the WDSI, the top five countries in the Global Ethics domain were Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, and Sweden; in the domain of Inclusive Development, the top five were Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland; while in the domain of Environmental Equilibrium, the top five were Croatia, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and France. 


The WDSI survey also yielded many unimagined results: First, the representative of global superpowers, the United States (35th), ranked lowest among developed countries. When viewed in terms of the Wang Dao precept, overall development in the US—a “fragile superpower” like the People’s Republic of China (40th) and Russia (58th) —appears insufficient to meet the goal of sustainability. Second, the northern European countries that value socialist democracy, welfare policies and environmental protection generally led the rankings. Third, the small and medium-sized "Ex-communist countries" that once lagged behind in global economic performance are now rushing to catch up. For example, Slovenia (10th) and Croatia (22nd) led the rankings in terms of environmental equilibrium. Fourth, the top-ranking country in Asia was Japan (16th), which also had the best economic performance of a country with 100 million people. Taiwan ranked 36th, just above average, coincidentally; so, there is still much work to be done.


Starting from the spirit of the Wang Dao precept, the WDSI echoes the trend toward embracing a new set of universal values for assessing the sustainable development performance of all countries. Accordingly, the Foundation of Chinese Culture for Sustainable Development will hold a global launch event and forum on December 16, 2018, at the Liang Kuo Shu International Conference Hall of the College of Social Science, National Taiwan University. Convener Chao-shiuan Liu, Chairman of the Foundation of Chinese Culture for Sustainable Development, and Yun-han Chu, Project Leader and Academician at Academia Sinica, will be present to share the project results with prominent scholars and distinguished guests, sparking discussion on a range of hot topics as the WDSI is unveiled to the world.


The WDSI project came to mind following a dramatic surge in the number of refugees around the world from 2010 onward. Face after helpless face seeking a way out and sufficient food to eat challenged our empathy and values regarding the bottom line of human survival. Convener Chao-shiuan Liu was convinced that the Wang Dao precept of traditional Chinese culture could provide a new way of thinking for the chaotic world of today as it faces the challenges of climate change and war disputes, and can create a value system that is just for all generations, now and hereafter. Accordingly, Chairman Liu and Project Leader Yun-han Chu led a team of scholars to research and develop the Wang Dao Sustainability Index. The summary report was authored by professors Shin-Chen Yeh from National Taiwan Normal University, Hans Hanpu Tung of National Taiwan University and M. Jason Kuo.