Is China’s development sustainable?

A senior World Bank official expresses strong skepticism.

China’s growing reliance on imported oil, pollution and looming water shortages pose the major threats to its economic development, a senior World Bank official said Thursday.

“The sustainability issues in China are the key issues in the next three to five years and the ones that are most likely to jeopardize its economic success,” said Yukon Huang, a senior adviser to the bank who formerly headed its office in Beijing.

China is now the world’s second largest oil importer, and it suffers from poor efficiency in turning oil into economic output – just 1/7 that of Japan, Huang said at a seminar organized by Singapore’s Institute for Southeast Asian Studies.

If China “cannot improve in terms of its efficiency the cost will be unbearable,” Huang said.

Economic growth – now running at about 9 percent, will likely fall to a more moderate 6 to 7 percent in coming years, Huang said, adding future growth would come less from new investment and more from greater productivity.

While China has cut industrial air pollution, the improvements have been offset by rising private car ownership, Huang said. China is now home to seven of the 10 worst polluted cities in the world, he said, saying that was something the country was “going to have to deal with.”

Huang called growing pressure on dwindling water supplies China’s “Achilles heel,” saying that wouldn’t be solved by projects under way to pump water from the relatively wet south and west to the arid north.

The struggle for water will lead to “a fight between rural interests, urban interests and industrial interests on who gets water in China,” Huang said, adding 75 percent of China’s rivers are too polluted to drink, fish in, or even use for irrigation.

When people argue with me that China’s pollution problem is “getting better” or is “under control,” I wonder what they’re smoking. Considering the sheer gravity of the crisis, a bit of improvement or holding steady isn’t nearly enough — the entire system needs to be overhauled, and that isn’t happening anytime soon.

Tragically, the current every-man-for-himself mentality doesn’t lend itself to caring about the mess they leave behind; that’s someone else’s problem. And one day, that’s going to come back to haunt them. It may be sooner than they expect.

The Discussion: 42 Comments

China has an opportunity to lead the world in the production of fuel efficient hybrid cars, an area where the US is way behind. I’m surprised the Chinese leadership doesn’t see this.

January 6, 2005 @ 3:23 pm | Comment

On paper, China has tougher emissions standards than the US, by a whole bunch (to use a technical term, hahha). The question is whether the standards will actually be applied and whether laws that exist on paper in general will be followed.

January 6, 2005 @ 3:57 pm | Comment

On paper China also enjoys liberal protection of human rights and workers’ rights. Whenever people cite China’s constitution as proof of the country’s reform-mindedness and progressiveness, all I can do is roll my eyes.

January 6, 2005 @ 4:09 pm | Comment

I can’t understand why China is retreading the same mistakes already made, especially by North America, when it comes to its obsession with cars. Los Angeles should not be a model for urban development anywhere, especially not for the conditions found in China.

January 6, 2005 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

“I can’t understand why China is retreading the same mistakes already made, especially by North America, when it comes to its obsession with cars. Los Angeles should not be a model for urban development anywhere, especially not for the conditions found in China. ”

schtickyrice, i can’t agree more with you on this! i hate those car makers that lobbied the policy makers to foster car industry, you won’t believe it, half of the cars in shanghai have to keep running at night because there are not enough parking lot, sort of black humor.

January 6, 2005 @ 6:40 pm | Comment

in general, i believe the current level of energy supply is more than enough if correct policies implemented and mismanagement reduced.

i can give you one example. may i am wrong in the figure, but roughly half of the electricity are wasted in keeping the house warm in china, because the houses are not constructed in a way that preseve the heat (large windows, thin wall, etc.). a regulation requires the heat presevation and strict implementation could save huge amount of energy waste.

January 6, 2005 @ 6:47 pm | Comment

“On paper China also enjoys liberal protection of human rights and workers’ rights. Whenever people cite China’s constitution as proof of the country’s reform-mindedness and progressiveness, all I can do is roll my eyes.
Posted by richard”

As I said, who knows if these standards will actually be applied? The larger question is to what extent any real rule of law can be implemented and adhered to.

Though I would have more optimism on this subject than the other.

January 6, 2005 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

“On paper China also enjoys liberal protection of human rights and workers’ rights”

i can tell you that government are taking real serious actions on protecting workers’ rights. the municipal government took a tough stance to those who don’t allow the establishment of workers’ union, including many multinationals who contributed big tax money.

also, i can find improvements in human right protection in daily life here in shanghai. government forbid anyone to ban the begging in public if s/he doesn’t want to go to the place government set up for them, unlike before, you find a lot of begs wandering in streets. but human rights violations are still serious problems everywhere

January 6, 2005 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

binfeng, I realize there are some improvment in workers’ rights. Some. But for so many, the situation is horrific, right out of the 19th century, like from a Dickens novel only way worse.

January 6, 2005 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

As for your earlier comment, Binfeng, you are right and the article even makes that point, that in China much of the energy they have is used wastefully — more wastefully than just about anyplace else.

January 6, 2005 @ 7:57 pm | Comment

My rather cynical estimate is that the average lifetime of a new regulation in China is about one or two weeks. Normally a brief attempt is made to enforce the rule for the sake of face, and then the law, like so many others, is forgotten. A trivial example; a few months ago new regulations concerning registration (by Chinese and foreigners) at internet cafes was enacted. I timed it; it was enforced for about ten days in Beijing, and not at all in Shijiazhuang or Tangshan, each a couple of hours away.

The law, so far as I can tell, exists only to protect a limited class within the cities; the upper-middle-and-upper-classes. Since this is the group that most foreigners have the most contact with, they often get a distorted idea of the value of the law in most people’s lives. In the countryside, especially as you go further west, there’s very little concept of law; only power, policy, and corruption.

Business and tax law, except for dealings with the foreign/international community, is a shambles. I didn’t realize the extent to which tax and regulation operates essentially on the principle of the shakedown until I dated a young provincial businesswoman. Her enterprise – a computer school – was shaken down by various local government departments five or six times a month, and it was only the bribes and personal relationships she had with more powerful officials that gave her protection. Many businesses, especially outside of the big cities, effectively pay no or little tax, instead paying an equivalent sum in bureaucratic protection money. Legal action is more of a bludgeon than a tool; its value lies in threat rather than the enforcement of contract. The lack of working small courts, too – the equivalent of the magistrates’ in the UK, f’instance – effectively deprives most workers of chances to recover unpaid wages, challenge unfair dismissal, and the suchlike.

That said, there have been real, palpable improvements in environmental protection in the last few years. In Shijiazhuang, where I used to live, it used to be virtually impossible to see the sky; now one out of every three days is clean and clear. I wonder, however, whether these improvements won’t be limited to the cities where the powerful and the wealthy live – the consumption zone – and raise their children, and the pollutants shunted off into the countryside – the production zone.

J.

January 6, 2005 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Incidentally, worker’s rights are also heavily limited in South Korea, a considerably richer, more developed, and theoretically democratic country. You would have thought, for instance, that a country with an average income exceeding $12’000 US could manage to supply safety helmets to its construction workers, or goggles for welders.

J.

January 6, 2005 @ 9:48 pm | Comment

Incidentally, the (British) Spectator’s cover story this weak concerns Chinese growth, rights, etc –

http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php?id=5502

January 6, 2005 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

Goddamnit, two incidentallys in two posts. But it’s such a good word.

January 6, 2005 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

Richard, I would rather bet on world’s largest polluter to clean up, than on world’s largest human rights violator to ‘improve’ its human rights record.

If you have a working knowledge of Deng Xiaoping’s Selected Works, Deng ruled out human rights consideration categorilly, blasted Jimi Carter, and labeled its advocates ‘traitors’. Later on China’s rhetorics tuned down a bit and now they include human rights in their official propaganda. As you said, it’s just on paper for show.

Kang Xiaoguang, the prominent official philosopher of the Forbidden City, recently cited ‘ruthless crackdown on any political rival’ as both a success in the past and a must for future CCP rule. I like reading Kang’s non-nonsense essays, for at least they never lied to me – the Communists have learned a lesson from Moscow and will not give up violance until their last gulp.

January 6, 2005 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

people read workers’ rights in different ways, i developed a stroy a few days ago in my blog about wal-mart suppliers workers in china, it’s a dilemma – in order to protect workers rights, you have to damage workers rights first

here is the link of the story:
http://blog.bcchinese.net/bingfeng/archive/2005/01/02/6826.aspx

January 6, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

I have some optimism about environmental protection in China and I also believe that the Chinese environmental movement has the potential to serve as a democratizing force in China. For one thing, protecting the environment may ruffle the feathers of individuals who stand to profit from its exploitation, but it doesn’t threaten the hegemony of the central government. And Chinese environmentalists have been out there, working, for a long time. If I recall, when the vote on 3 Gorges was taken in the late 80s (?) in the National Peoples’ Congress, it was the first time in that body’s history that significant numbers did anything other than rubber-stamp the decision – about 40% declined to vote on the matter, which was basically voting against it.

I am no expert on Chinese traditional culture, but it’s my understanding that the unity of man and nature, man being a part of nature and nature representing different emotional states and so on is an essential aspect. This is a place where the Chinese people and the government have an opportunity to reach a broad consensus, that protecting the environment, “China’s treasures” and all that is the right thing to do, and it’s the CHINESE thing to do. There’s not a lot to lose in insisting on tougher emissions standards, and a whole lot to gain, in other words.

January 7, 2005 @ 12:49 am | Comment

J. Palmer: The law and order (reads: lawless and orderless) are operated in China in the way just as you testified. Thanks to that malpractice, people can still enjoy their illegal satellite access to CNN programs. That’s one of the few upsides of it I can think of.

There are accidental improvement in environment, though. For example, Shanghai’s sky has been much bluer than before, after the city’s heavy polluting textile industry went to bust under bureau director Zhu, nephew of then Premier Zhu Rongji. To give them credit the city has spent billion in yuan since to clean up Suzhou creek by contracting an Australian firm. Again, it’s the consumption zone stuff like you said — for the showwindow of the regime. (Textile industry was the pillar for Shijiazhuang when I lived there, not for sure how it is now)

January 7, 2005 @ 2:28 am | Comment

Shijiazhuang has a big pharmaceutical industry nowadays. Anyway, you forget one benefit of lax regulation – the joys of pirate DVDs. I went to my favorite store in Sanlitun the other day, and found it cleared out of pirate DVDs and stacked with the legit stuff the Friendship Stores carry. The girl there explained that they were expecting an inspection that afternoon, and so had to put the movies away for the day for the sake of appearances; they’d be back tomorrow.

January 7, 2005 @ 3:51 am | Comment

Pharmaceutical was the other pillar industry at my time. Glad to know that it survived.

Would like to tell you one benifit of rip-off priced legit DVDs. One friend in Shanghai had me purchased him a BeeGee One Night Only DVD in the states, Why, I ask, since I knew he has a huge collections of 10-yuan DVDs? Well, the DTS channel never works with those pirated one.

January 7, 2005 @ 4:58 am | Comment

>>>
I am no expert on Chinese traditional culture, but it’s my understanding that the unity of man and nature, man being a part of nature and nature representing different emotional states and so on is an essential aspect.
>>>

Lisa, that may have been true at one time, but judging by the personal habits of many Chinese, I don’t think it carries much weight now.

Like many westerners who live in (and admire) China, I am frustrated, angered and saddened by the way so many Chinese relate to the environment on a daily, personal level. I’m talking about trash and litter.

It’s quite commonplace to see pedestrians take the plastic wrapper off something, and simply drop it on the sidewalk – or on a manicured garden – even when a trash can is within a meter or two.

I once read a quote from a Tibetan saying how much they preferred busloads of foreign tourists over locals because the domestic Chinese tourists tossed so much trash out of their bus windows – right onto the very Tibetan landscape they had crossed the continent to see. ๐Ÿ™

I will never forget something I witnessed during my first trip to Suzhou. I was admiring the old buildings lining the picturesque canals, when I noticed a small flap on the side of a house. I stared at it, wondering what it was. Suddenly the flap lifted, and a handful of trash casually fell into the canal below.

It struck me that people from all over the world came to Suzhou to see, among other things, it’s historic canals. But to some of the locals, the canals were nothing but convenient garbage chutes.

Certainly not all Chinese are like this. Yet, when I see how so many treat their motherland in their daily lives, it makes it hard for me to understand how the problem can be managed on the collective, national scale.

Maybe China needs the equivalent of the Native American chief television commercials which were so effective in raising American awareness about litter and pollution in the 1960s.

January 7, 2005 @ 9:39 am | Comment

Shanghai, this is one of the most poignant points in Jasper Becker’s book The Chinese — the attitude of carelessness by your average Chinese citizen when it comes to the environment, to the point of local factories dumping cannisters of toxic chemicals into lakes and destroying the drinking water for tens of thousands. I realize there are some improvements and there are, luckily, more and more outspoken environmentalists. But on average, the man on the street is shockingly insensitive to the environment (especially when it saves them trouble or money). And it’s not just candy wrappers. I have seen guys relieving themselves right in the middle of a busy sidewalk with absolutely no inhibition and no concern for the fact that what they are doing is discourteous, selfish and unsanitary. As I said, it’s not going to take baby-step improvements to fix this nightmare, it has to be a complete overhaul of the society’s mentality and behavior. And as the writer says, there might not be enough time before the environmental crisis chokes the nation and brings the economic miracle to a screeching halt.

January 7, 2005 @ 10:04 am | Comment

Dear Shanghai & Richard,

I agree with what you are saying about typical attitudes towards the environment. The most time I spent in China was fall/winter of 79-80. I won’t go into what things were like then, but let’s just say “grim” is a good overall description. But more recently I’ve been meeting Chinese who are into hiking, mountain-climbing and the like and who are quite passionate about being in nature and protecting the environment. I realize that this isn’t a majority and is mostly a middle-class phenomenae, but it’s an attitude that is growing…I think…I hope…

Maybe it’s just spitting in the wind in the face of ecological crisis (the stats I’ve seen recently about cancer rates and environmentally linked illnesses are truly staggering), but I have to hope it’s something that will grow…otherwise, we’re all pretty much screwed, aren’t we?

January 7, 2005 @ 10:15 am | Comment

We’re not disagreeing. It’s good to hope and to be optimistic. I’m just saying it’ll take a whole lot more than that to fix this staggering mess. Like enforceable laws and punishments. Unfortunately, when you have a corrupt government it’s all but impossible to enforce your laws, as those who can pay the bribes can do whatever they choose.

January 7, 2005 @ 10:31 am | Comment

I think ‘living in harmony with nature’ always had a fair degree of Western romanticism behind it; there are plenty of examples of ancient Chinese overfarming, water misuse, and so on. (Same goes for ancient European cultures, of course.) Some of the Confucian reformers of the end of the nineteenth century had remarkably far-sighted ecological views, however.

Talking of the Native American commercial, there’s a strong stream of ecoromanticism among the Chinese towards some of the minority peoples. I don’t know if anybody read ‘Wolf Totem’ – very popular recent book about the spiritual relationship of modern-day Mongolians and wolves. (Also a peculiar stream of Chinese self-criticism, depicting the Han as sheep and the Mongols as wolves.) Complete bollocks – Mongolians think that wolves are common pests and hunt them from jeeps with rifles nowadays – but very popular.

There are strong and growing environmental movements in China, and an increasing recognition of it as a public problem. Family loyalty obliges me to pimp the website of the group my father runs, the Alliance of Religion and Conservation.

http://www.arcworld.org

They do a lot of work in China, particularly with the Daoist and Buddhist communities.

January 7, 2005 @ 7:12 pm | Comment

a very popular film in china:

ke ke xi li the mountain patrol

http://blog.bcchinese.net/bingfeng/archive/2004/12/28/6576.aspx

January 7, 2005 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

ke ke xi li

happen to find some pics here:
http://forum.blogchina.com/226972.html

btw, blogchina is a site you guys should keep eyes on, it reveals the most recent interests and focus of so-called intellectual elites and their followers in mainland china

January 7, 2005 @ 7:57 pm | Comment

‘The unity of man and nature, man being a part of nature’ and so on indeed was in classic Chinese culture, represented in the Tao (Dao) school. But not any more. Like many other ‘Chinese’ trademarks it’s basically only on the paper now. Now even the middle class trendy of hiking, camping and other
recreational activities are not from ancient teachings, but from perceived Western way of life.

Huge discruptions took place in 1644, 1919 and 1949, to name a few
landmarkes. Now you only need to notice the crazy zeal over cars, SUVs and HUMMER 2 among ordinary Chinese, especially the so-called middle-class. America is at least partially to blame.

January 8, 2005 @ 12:18 am | Comment

Shanghai Slim: Thank you for sharing your candid observation, but Suzhou is definitely not the worst case in China. Remember, it’s traditionally honored as ‘Heaven on Earth’ in China. Think about Huaihe river. The truth is, no mattter what those angry Chinese youth want to say about Japan, Japanese are much more decent people in treating nature.

In China context, Tibetan could be a perfect ‘native American chief’ figure to raise the environmental awareness. Only it would contradicts the government version, which insists Han Chinese culture is uber-alles and that China brought civilization to backward Tibet. However, since 80s many Chinese urbanites have traveled to Tibet and reflected on the official version. You can say ‘Wolf Totem’ is this brand of new age romanticism applied to another minority – Mongolians. The apologists voice is still weak, but at least there.

January 8, 2005 @ 5:04 am | Comment

a short note

first,

chinese are perceived as a people without habit of keeping clean. a book titled “world civilization” tells me an european noble man will just pee into the fireplace in his room if his servant forget to leave a urinal in his room, you can find a lot of similar stories like this in 18th century.

i have been to places like shanxi province and nanxijiang, one with desert, the other, plenty of clean and fresh water. people in nanxijiang are very clean.

second,

japanese are perceived by many, especially by chinese, as a people born cruel.

a movie named “devil come to village” tells a story of japanese soilder, who were caught by chinese and jailed in that village, gradually became lukewarm and kind, but after he escaped and back to his fucking army, he came back to that village and murdered all villagers.

if you read chinese history, you will find in history chinese treat their own land carefully and kindly. and in shanghai, if you step into a family, you will just amazed how clean their tiny rooms are.

my conclusion:
economic development level, plus the organization people live in, play a more important role in shaping their characters

any assertion like chinese are born dirty or japanese are born cruel, are nonsense bullshit

over

January 8, 2005 @ 5:50 am | Comment

I don’t think the Chinese were “born dirty,” of course. I do think when it comes to personal hygiene, they have some issues that have been proven to be unsanitary, such as eating off of one plate and spitting.

As to your example of the European nobleman pissing in his fireplace, that’s a very far cry from doing it in the middle of a very busy street in broad daylight!

When it comes to personal cleanliness, I always found the Chinese (and most Asians, actually) to be far more diligent than Westerners — they take their showers very seriously in China and Japan and Thailand! So it’s not a matter of being dirty, but about being careless and selfish — not worrying about the mess you leave behind because you can get away with it. Forget personal cleanliness, which is irrelevant. For a very interesting post on this phenomenon of selfishness in China, I recommend you read this.

January 8, 2005 @ 9:06 am | Comment

Quite an ironic link there richard. Let me just post these two paragraphs from andres’ website. The punchline is in the last sentence for those that see it.

“This inability to see past your own person is something widely commented on by foreigners in China. It takes different forms: crowds that gather around accidents but do absolutely nothing to help the injured people, the prevalence of “mei you” when asking for something from someone who knows perfectly well they have it or know where it is, corruption that is an in-your-face expression of selfishness, and confusing government bureaucracies which are essentially codified no-responsibility zones.

All of these situations share a basic characteristic: only the very narrowly defined interests of a single person are considered. We can go through examples of each to get a better idea of this.

Yesterday (almost like manna from heaven for the purposes of this essay), there was a fire in the apartment block across the street from mine. I was walking back from buying vegetables at a nearby market and saw a gathering crowd and the unmistakeable scent of ash. The fire engines hadn’t arrived yet, but I could predict what was going to happen: people would come running to stare, point, and laugh, but certainly not to help. I ran upstairs to get my camera to document it.”

January 8, 2005 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

A touch of irony, but I have to say I agree with many of the points he makes.

January 8, 2005 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

richard,

in history, english people changed their way of how to use the land dramatically as soon as the reform makes their land “public”.

even in period of cultural revolution, chinese treat their “zi liu di” (land for self) very well, unlike the way they treat the “public land”.

the selfishiness or carelessness mentioned by you, in my view, is caused by these social or political systems, and no other factors are more important than them.

also, the economic development level and natural conditions are also a factor that limit people’s ability to keep public clean. the book “”world civiliaztions” has a lot of cases about how europeans in 18th century behave in public, not beautiful either.

my point is, we are discussing some habits in china (or chinese) that we don’t like, how to change it should start from the finding of their real reasons.

sorry for my “broken english” ๐Ÿ™‚

January 8, 2005 @ 6:54 pm | Comment

Unfortunately, the damage the Chinese have done to their land doesn’t compare in any way, not even minutely, to what Western Europeans did to the land many generations ago, before the advent of nuclear waste and the toxic sludge that is so characteristic of modern times. What the English did was quite fixable — they hadn’t turned lakes into breathing pits of fire, or rivers into literal cesspools. So the challenges in China’s case are far more drastic, and even constitute in many areas a matter of life and death. It’s easy to say, Well, it’ll get better as things reform — true enough, but the pace of reform is simply too slow and the environmental crisis too great for that to make much of a difference.

And your comparison of the behavior of Chinese people today with Europeans of 300 years ago is pretty weak. Come on, we are in the 21st century and China aspires to be a great power. It will take a little more maturity and responsibility and accountability and respect for those around them before they can even consider themselves as candidates for global greatness. To be a global leader, the country must set a great example, the way Greece and Rome have done, the way England and the US have done. To do that takes discipline and maturity, and those are qualitites a lot of contemporary Chinese, for whatever reasons, are in need of.

January 8, 2005 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

the way chinese treat their land is merely a natural reaction, if that land is not their own (according to the policies), why should they waste their time and energy to care for the environmental issues in that land.

the case of english is not comparable to today’s chinese in terms of thier level, but in nature, they are the same, if the land doesn’t belong to their own, they will just abuse the land.

another example, america’s refusal to join the kyoto treaty has some important implications.

blames should not go to the chinese people, or english or americans, blames should go to the policies that shape those people’s bad habits and in order to change those bad habits, policies should be changed

January 8, 2005 @ 9:07 pm | Comment

many people critized that americans are war-fans, this is wrong.

the blame should go to american’s way of living that depends a lot on oil.

if you read book on WWII, you will find that even nazi germany was not “born evils” country. the international policies that forced germany to pay their war indemnity made that country bankrupt and had no choice but war.

today, man and the organizations are just shaped by their policies. our reflections should focus on policies.

January 8, 2005 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

Asia by Blog

Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature, usually posted on Monday and Thursday, providing links to Asian blogs and their views on the news in this fascinating region. Previous editions can be found here. For tsunami relief information, please see the Ts…

January 9, 2005 @ 8:03 am | Comment

I think people tend to forget just how bad England’s pollution problems really were. Not 100s of years ago, but just back in the 60s London used to get days when the smog was so bad you literally could not see your hand if you held it out in front of you. It’s only been very recently that the Thames river has got clean enough for fish to live in it. China’s pollution problems are severe, and people’s health will suffer because of it … but I don’t think its a critical factor for China’s bright future/bleak future. It’s a problem that will have to be dealt with, but once the political will exists to really do something about it, the situation will improve rapidly (meaning decades, not centuries). Of course, there are other reasons why I think China’s bright future is under threat, and I’ve written about them elsewhere in this blog, but since I seem to have got a reputation as a “China negativist” (so says Jing anyway), I thought I might express one of my views in the other direction. Cheers.

January 9, 2005 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Back to the topic. A resourceful reading could be:

The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future
by Elizabeth Economy

In an interview with NPR, Ms Economy mentioned China’s new premier Wen Jiabao once requested a copy of the book from her when the two met. She was pretty encouraged.

Wondering if Wen has got his copy and found some time to read.

January 11, 2005 @ 1:04 am | Comment

I wonder how this relates to Lu Xun’s criticisms of “ma mu” (“indifference” according to my dictionary), which he apparently referred to as a Chinese national cultural defect.

Comments from anyone familiar with Lu Xun’s writing on this topic?

January 11, 2005 @ 10:16 am | Comment

Bingfeng wrote:
>>>
the way chinese treat their land is merely a natural reaction, if that land is not their own (…) why should they waste their time and energy to care for the environmental issues (…)
>>>
Because everyone benefits in real ways from public resources – and everyone is harmed when public resources are abused. This is not academic theory, it’s common sense.

If you drop your trash on the ground, you save yourself some insignificant effort, but you make the city dirtier for everyone. It’s this reluctance to balance public welfare against personal gain which strikes westerners. It’s not just about the environment, it permeates Chinese social interaction. This is what Andres Gentry was referring to in the essay linked to above.

>>>
the case of english is not comparable to today’s chinese in terms of thier level, but in nature, they are the same, if the land doesn’t belong to their own, they will just abuse the land.
>>>
You need to visit a western public park. ๐Ÿ™‚

>>>
another example, america’s refusal to join the kyoto treaty has some important implications.
>>>
I disagree. It has important implication about the actions and attitudes of the misguided group currently in charge of American policy, but no further. You can easily find many Americans outraged over Bush’s decision on Kyoto, trust me. I would not take Kyoto as an implication of any values of American society in general.

>>>
blames should not go to the chinese people, or english or americans, blames should go to the policies that shape those people’s bad habits and in order to change those bad habits, policies should be changed
>>>
Agreed, but I would suggest that it may not be enough to change policies, but cultural values or social circumstances that produce the policies to begin with.

Westerners have learned some difficult lessons on some of these issues (e.g. the environment), let’s hope China can learn from western mistakes instead of repeating them on a grander scale.

(PS – please don’t apologize for your English, I’m sure very few of us can write in Chinese as well as you write in English)

January 11, 2005 @ 11:22 am | Comment

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