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Dynamics of economy-wide resource flow and consumption in China, South Korea, and Vietnam—a pan-regional analysis
20/09/21 08:36AM
Ta Thi Huong, and Izhar Hussain Shah. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 193: 585, 2021.
Abstract: The transformation of natural resources across the economy in China, South Korea, and Vietnam has been studied to give a comparative regional perspective based on trends in resource efficiency, bilateral trade dynamics, and progress on regional economic and environmental policy. Consumption of raw materials has been decomposed into economic dynamics and dematerialization, if any, has been tested based on material flow accounting approaches. As per the results, domestic material consumption (DMC) continues to increase in China and Vietnam but has stabilized in South Korea. China and South Korea have become main net importers of raw materials while Vietnam is about to enter this phase. With relatively lower material efficiency in China and Vietnam compared to South Korea, a higher reliance on intensive production and export of raw materials has been identified. As DMC has soared in all three countries, economic affluence is seen as the main driver with marginal contribution from population growth. However, technological improvements have helped reduce material usage with South Korea and China making significant progress. As South Korea has begun to dematerialize, China and Vietnam face the strong challenge of dematerializing economic growth—a reversal that could take several years if resource productivity is not significantly improved. Factors that inhibit better resource efficiency in China and Vietnam include the production and trade of low-end items, energy, and raw materials. However, the increasing economic affluence in China and Vietnam has brought significant environmental improvements from both institutional and technological perspectives—through multiple policy actions. Moreover, as more countries import net resources, regional and global supply chain competition is expected to intensify—making resource efficiency a fundamental economic objective. The results of this study provide important lessons for emerging economies to accelerate resource productivity and reduce the physical intensity of materials for sustainable economic development.