China’s environmental achievements can’t be overlooked by West’s myope
Published: Jul 28, 2023 08:01 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

Building a Beautiful China plays a huge part in building a great modern socialist country and advancing national rejuvenation. At a recent national conference on ecological and environmental protection, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China should support high-quality development with a high-quality ecological environment and promote modernization featuring the harmonious co-existence between human and nature. From a participant in global environmental governance to a leader, China's achievements in the development of ecological civilization have been remarkable, and they have become even more prominent as mankind faces greater challenges such as the global climate crisis. The Global Times selected the opinions of international observers on China's ecological civilization and its implications for developing countries.

Europe is in the midst of a "brutal" heat wave with wildfires in Southern Europe leading to numerous deaths and evacuations. World Weather Attribution concludes that fossil fuel emissions are a leading cause of this heat wave, which is a harbinger of climate change.

Consequently, industrialization, which began in Europe, is inseparable from our biosphere - development can't be bracketed off from our ecological good. The problem is the Global South, representing the majority of the Earth, hasn't developed. If they do develop, along Western lines, they will consume more, increasing the output of fossil fuels.

With this in mind, in regard to our shared ecological good, there is an interplay between inequality and development and those who are unable to imagine a better future might advocate the global status quo of uneven development as an ecological good. Development in the Global South is too often posited negatively through the lens of environmental destruction.

Overlooked is that the patterns of development in the Global South cannot be separated from Western capitalism, which historically sucked up their resources and demanded weak regulations in the interest of profiteering. As a case in point, even strong states, such as China, have had to succumb to this logic leading to heavy smog - though this has largely been overcome. 

In contrast, China is a conscious historical actor able to construct plans to escape capitalism's developmental logic. Ecological disaster would negate China's socialist plans and uneven development would negate socialism. Consequently, development and environmental protection, for the good of humanity who are part of the ecology, must go hand in hand -there is no other way!

Today, China's political-economic system has the wherewithal to create the relevant infrastructure and technology needed for this green future. Already, high-speed rail crosses the country and maglevs will soon arrive, decreasing the need for air travel. Cities are turning into gardens, crisscrossed by subways, BRTs, and shared bikes and scooters. Electric buses are ubiquitous, self-driving electric taxis already exist, and hydrogen-powered buses are already in operation - all of this is part of China's long-term planning.

China leads the world in green energy and it plans to generate a third of its electricity from renewables by 2025. China's solar capacity is already greater than the rest of the world combined and it has six of the world's 10 largest wind turbine manufacturers.

China demonstrates that development and technological progress, as long as it is under democratic control in line with the needs of humanity, need not be contradictory to saving the planet. China's system shows humanity the way forward. Instead of learning from China, the West regards its system as a risk and constrains it. 

The constraining of China is inseparable from Western hegemonism, linked to Western capitalism, which has sought to profit from environmental degradation. The use of hegemonic hard power, to control the world, diverts technological resources for the green energy revolution. The US military emits more carbon emissions than all the cars in the US. War leads to environmental degradation and de-development, destroying the foundations for a green order. Nuclear war would lead to the destruction of the biosphere and civilization Even economic wars, such as chip sanctions, block opportunities for environmental cooperation and green technological innovation.

Democratic development is the way forward. If we continue undemocratic development, conditioned by profiteering for the few, which denies the development for the rest, then development will go against Mother Nature. However, if we embark on a pattern of development conditioned by the environmental needs of humanity, which brings about green technology, then development becomes the savior. 

China has democratic control over capital, its resources, and the means of production. If it didn't, China would not lead the world in Green tech today. China's developmental direction should not come as a surprise as the Marxist historical perspective is inherently an ecological one, concerned with who gets to "own" and control the Earth's resources. As such, China's fight against poverty has been synonymous with improving the environment.

Those at "the end of history" remain in the cage of history. However, even with theoretical myope, they must recognize China's material environmental achievements. These achievements cannot be bracketed off from China's theoretical outlook.

One key concept of China's green-developmental theoretical outlook is "Ecological Civilization." It recognizes that the environment is the primary factor binding humanity together. As such, our diverse civilizations must all unify and develop based on shared environmental concerns.

China's green developmental theory spurs on green innovations and material progress in the international realm. As of 2019, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) completed fifty large-scale green projects including fifteen large railway projects, six wind power projects, 11 solar photovoltaic projects and seven hydropower projects. China's Hydrogen buses will soon be appearing in Malaysia.

China's Global Development Initiative (GDI) further underscores China's commitment to bringing green sustainable development to the world. It aims to promote people-centered development and inject impetus into the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which include poverty alleviation and environmental protection. For this reason, it is already garnering strong support from the Global South.

As of May 2023, through the GDI, China signed 46 South-South cooperation documents on climate change with 39 developing countries and there have also been 52 South-South cooperation training sessions on climate change. Understanding that the environment is the foundation of economic prosperity, in November 2022, China and Mongolia pledged to strengthen cooperation on desertification prevention and support will be provided for Mongolia's plan to plant one billion trees. 

Seeking to tie environmental protection and development together, through the GDI, China and the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR) launched the "Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastic Initiative." When it comes to funding, China has added an additional $1 billion on top of the existing $3 billion for South-South cooperation assistance.

China's green ideological and material developmental stance in the world is clear. The only China threat or risk that exists comes from the West not cooperating comprehensively with China's development. Humanity cannot escape the Earth, thus we must all recognize that the bedrock of our unity and survival is Ecological Civilization not a "clash of civilizations."

The author is an independent international relations analyst who focuses on China's socialist development and global inequality. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn