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Updated to: 10 February 2015

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Distinguishing features of the EIA/SEA system

China is one of the earliest countries that implemented EIA. The EIA system has gradually evolved with the development of the environmental management system and the environmental protection legal system. Since the promulgation of the Interim Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China in 1979, EIA was stipulated as a legal system. Thereafter, it has been further developed through a continious improvement and legislating process with the Government taking a leading role. The practice of Regional Environmental Impact Assessment (REIA) has already early initiated the implementation of strategic assessment. The EIA Law from 2002 marks a milestone in the systematic and legal development of EIA and SEA in China. It extented the objectives of EIA for construction projects to strategic development plans, providing the basis for Plan EIA (PEIA), the principal form of SEA in China. Nowadays, a complex system of regulations, statutes, ordinances, directives and technical guidelines regulate the EIA and PEIA process. In 2014, the revised Environmental Protection Law was promulgated. It provides for better conditions for enforcing EIA provisions and it requires EIA for economical and technical policies, thus it firstly mentions an SEA-like procedure.

In China, the main managment agencies of EIA are the competent authorities of environmental protection at central level (Ministry of Environmental Protection) as well as at the local level (local Environmental Protection Bureaus).

Administrative system: relevant features

The People's Republic of China  (PRC) has a total of 34 administrative units at provincial level directly under the central government in Beijing. Besides 23 provinces (Sheng), there are 5 autonomous regions (zizhiqu) for minority nationalities, and 4 centrally administered municipalities (zhixiashi). In addition, Hong Kong and Macau are two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) that returned to China respectively in 1997 and 1999 from their previous colonial reign. Taiwan is also considered a province of China, but with special status. Hongkong, Macau and Taiwan have have separate legal systems and thus own regulations on EIA. These won't be further considered in this country profile.

In China, three modes of the administrative environmental management system can be distinguished: regional management, industrial management and resource management. Regional management is the main mode in China; each government is in charge of the environmental management of its administrative jurisdiction area. Industrial management is cross-region management concentrating on the management of a specific industry. It supplements regional management. Finally, resource management focuses on the preservation of natural resources. The management institutions of EIA closely relate to the administrative management system in China. Local governments can be empowered to adopt their own specific EIA rules and regulations and for projects within their jurisdictions, but they must be in compliance with the national laws, regulations and standards.

Relevant international conventions

China has signed the Ramsar Convention in 1992 and the Convention on Biodiversity also in 1992.

Environmental Standards: relevant features

The environmental standards system in China has been developed over the last 30 years. It is composed of three subsystems, namely national standards, local standards and industrial standards.
At the national level, environmental quality standards, pollutant discharge or emission standards, standards for environmental monitoring methodology, standards for environmental samples and for environmental basic criteria, are defined. At the local level, environmental quality standards and pullutant discharge standards are defined as well. Furthermore, national environmental protection industrial standards are determined.
Hence, China has environmental norms and standards for a very broad variety of issues (e.g. air, water, noise, soil, solid waste, radioactivity, eco-environment) and industries. Frequently, new standards are added and published. An overview of national standards can be viewed on the following website of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

Country specific terms or acronyms

CAEP = Competent Authority of Environmental Protection

EIRF=Environmental Impact Registration Form (no EIA requirement)

EIF= Environmental Impact Form (light EIA requiremnet

EIR=Environmental Impact Report (full EIA required)

MEP=Ministry of Environmental Protection formally

MEPCP = Management for Environmental Protection of Capital Construction Projects

OEMCP = Ordinance of Environmental Management of Construction Projects

SEPA= State Environmental Protection Administration

EPBs=Environmental Protection Bureaus

RC=People's Republic of China

MoC=Ministry of Construction

MOHURD=Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development

REIA = Regional Environmental Impact Assessment

TGEIA=Technical Guidelines for EIA

PEAA = Planning Examination Approval Authority

PEIA = Plan Environmental Impact Assessment

PRC=People's Republic of China

PAR=Project Application Report