Will China make the world green?

October 5, 2010

Workers remove mine slag at an aluminium plant in Zibo, Shandong province December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Joschka Fischer was never one to mince words when he was Germany’s foreign minister in the late ’90s and early noughts. So it is not overly surprising that he has painted a picture in a new post of a world with only two powers — the United States and China — and an ineffective and divided Europe on the sidelines.

More controversial, however, is his view that China will not only grow into the world’s most important market over the coming years, but will determine what the world produces and consumes — and that that will be green.

Fischer, who was leader of  Germany’s Green Party, reckons that due to its sheer size and needed GDP growth, China will have to pursue a green economy. Without that, he writes in his Project Syndicate post, China will quickly reach limits to growth with disastrous ecological and, as a result, political consequences.

This will have serious consequences on the the way the West lives.

Consider the transition from the traditional automobile to electric transport. Despite European illusions to the contrary, this will be decided in China, not in the West. All that will be decided by the West’s globally dominant automobile industry is whether it will adapt and have a chance to survive or go the way of other old Western industries: to the developing world.

This is not the usual view of China. Many greens have long feared the impact of a huge leap in Chinese growth on the global environment — refrigerators in a billion homes, cars in a billion garages etc.

So instead of killing the planet, is China set to save it?


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Yes Fischer is right. Yesterday at the Tianjin conference through the Su Wei speech, China launched a challenge to the USA: go first, change your climate policy or fail!

Posted by meleze | Report as abusive

Yes,China now is in pursue of a green and peaceful power,not like that America does.

Posted by wandererc | Report as abusive

The country that develops a green sustainable economy will win the economic race and rule the future. So far the USA has failed to measure up to the challenge. Too much invested in old technologies and too comfortable to envision a new model of economy. China’s leadership is way too interested in its own power to allow the changes necessary to divest itself of an eco-destructive cash generator economy. I cannot see anything but an Armageddon capable of the magnitude necessary to change minds and habits towards a sustainable life style for the people of earth.

Posted by arcoknuti | Report as abusive

Yes Mr Bush, that’s the future. You ignored the Kyoto protocol as just about the only developed country on this planet and decided to wage war against Irak and its elusive “weapons of mass destruction” instead. Think about how much research could have been done in green technology for all that money.
And hey the best thing is, there are still some out there who want that kind of decision making back.
Are the American banks benefitting from the coming Chinese boom as much as if it had happened in the U.S. instead?

Posted by Rhino1 | Report as abusive

China made excellent move! China is #1 in the NEXT green industry.

Posted by brookchen | Report as abusive

No. They are not set to save the planet from global warming. Rather, anything that is capable of being burnt in this country, is. The air is so putrid where I live in Central China, that I have to seal my home up at night in order to sleep.

Money always wins over the environment and the plight of common men.

Posted by kc10man | Report as abusive

kc10man’s comments made on Oct 7, 2010 at 9:01 A.M. precisely reflect my own experiences living in Tianjin and Beijing 1985-90, Macau 1990-94 (especially when the winds came from any northerly direction), and Shunde, about midway between Macau and Guangzhou 1999-2000. On during my numerous trips to China since 2000.

China is experiencing an “ecological schizophrenia.” That is, it’s quickly assuming the world lead in developing and deploying green technology, especially in terms of solar and wind power, YET continues to open filthy pollution-belching coal-fired power plants at the rate of about 1-2 per WEEK. They also are pushing nuclear, which makes me nervous; I think “Chernobyl” every time I think about nuclear power plants in China.

I don’t know if it’s even possible to know, at this point, just how China will turn out in this regard.

Posted by MekhongKurt | Report as abusive

China pursuing a green environment? That’s a funny idea! I think the only thing we can rely on China to do is turn the planet red.

Why we are giving all this business to a corrupt and tyrannical government, so that they can gain a position of
power over us, is beyond me.

Once they are powerful enough they will begin to lay down the law to us. And, if we object, they will use their military might to force us onto the same treadmill that their own people have been slaves to all their miserable lives.

Why are we empowering this future enemy – who one day we will have to fight for our freedom? Look at the way they treat their own people… One day they will start to treat us that way too!

Posted by joot | Report as abusive

With Beijing counting blue sky days, and China’s failure to maintain a live air quality website as it had promised, we are reminded that the environment is not China’s top concern.
China will lead in a Green Economy only if they think it’s best for their GDP, not because of a deep concern about the environment.

Posted by Tombot | Report as abusive

China will make the world green!

China is at the stage of development, China is huge, it is inevitable that some remote areas of management is poor. May I ask, can you say that the U.S. is a perfect it? So please, treat with a good development in China. Thank you

Posted by peixun818 | Report as abusive

We tried to go green in the US. We passed laws that had our steel plants treat the water they used and clean the fumes they produced. Companies cried that the cost was making them uncompetitive. Then congress passed trade bills that made it real easy for business to break up these plants ship them off to India and China were little or no regulation would make them competitive once again. Now the polluted water and air in China is causing similar birth defects and long term health problems we saw here . The moral of the story is that in all likelihood the invisible hand of commerce will continue to shove these problems on to the next emerging economy once the next bunch of captains of industry start to feel the shadow of the masses at their back.

Posted by ROWnine | Report as abusive