The notion of ecological civilisation has become central to Chinese efforts to confront and deal with environmental problems. However, ecological civilisation is characterized by its proponents in different ways. Some see it as simply an adjunct to the existing system designed to deal with current ecological crises. Its more radical proponents argue for a socialist ecological civilisation that should be developed globally and transform every part of society, changing the way people perceive, live and relate to each other and to nature, and the goals they aspire to. Ecological civilisation is a translation of the Russian notion of ecological culture, and tracing the history of ecology and the concept of culture in the Soviet Union, particularly in the 1920s, I will support this more radical view, arguing that ecological civilisation is not only underpinned by eco-socialism; it provides the means to clarify the meaning of socialism generally in a way that accords with deep assumptions of Marx’s critique of capitalism. That this notion has been officially embraced within China establishes a tradition of socialist thought that now has the potential to challenge and replace global capitalism.