Regional Sustainability ›› 2023, Vol. 4 ›› Issue (4): 390-404.doi: 10.1016/j.regsus.2023.11.004

• Full Length Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Rural sustainable development: A case study of the Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone in China

Binsheng LIUa, Xiaohui ZHANGa, Junfeng TIANa,*(), Ruimin CAOb, Xinzhang SUNc, Bin XUEa   

  1. aSchool of Public Policy and Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing, 400044, China
    bZaozhuang Science and Technology Bureau, Zaozhuang, 277000, China
    cThe Administrative Center for China’s Agenda 21, Beijing, 100036, China
  • Received:2023-05-09 Revised:2023-08-13 Accepted:2023-11-17 Online:2023-12-30 Published:2024-01-09
  • Contact: Junfeng TIAN


Sustainable development is the central theme of modern global development. With the arrival of the urban era, the vulnerability and instability of rural areas have significantly increased, and rural sustainable development faces serious challenges. To address these issues, the study took the Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone in China under the National Sustainable Development Agenda as a case, combined with economic, social and land use data during 2016-2020, and applied Granger causality test method to explore the theoretical and practical pathways of “innovation-driven rural sustainable development”. The results showed that rural sustainable development and economic sustainability displayed a trend of synergistic change, with “explosive” growth from 2018 to 2020. The social sustainability steadily increased from 2016 to 2020. Ecological and spatial sustainability continuously declined during the study period. Moreover, the rural innovation capacity of the Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone displayed rapid growth during 2016-2020. Although the rural innovation capacity of the Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone has rapidly improved, it has a weak driving effect on rural sustainable development and economic sustainability. There are two primary challenges that must be overcome to ensure the rural sustainable development of the Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone. The first challenge is the imbalance among the multi-dimensional relationships in the process of rural sustainable development, and the second challenge is the weakening of rural innovation capacity to drive rural sustainable development. To overcome these challenges, this study proposed a systematic pathway for rural sustainable development in the Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone from multi-dimensions, such as policy actions, technologies, projects, and institutional guarantees, and formed a universal and representative “Zaozhuang model”. This study expands the theoretical foundation of rural sustainable development and provides theoretical and practical support for innovation-driven rural sustainable development.

Key words: Rural sustainable development, Rural innovation capacity, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Economic sustainability, Social sustainability, Ecological sustainability, Zaozhuang Innovation Demonstration Zone