Nation bets it all on green

By Qin Xiaoying
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, April 9, 2010
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A few days ago, I came across an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time. The unbelievable changes in his physical appearance were astounding. The last time we met, he had a fair complexion and a weak physique. Now, he's tanned and muscular.

His explanation quickly answered my questions.

"I resigned from my post as a senior company executive to become a farm owner," he said, adding that he is busy generating wind power and engaging in some low-carbon producing activities. "An intimate contact with nature has given me a healthier and stronger physical constitution, and possibly bigger financial returns," he told me.

His words and physique made me pause and think, as it should for every Chinese person who is committed to contributing to a low-carbon economy.

Shortsighted human activities have induced some terrible changes to our planet. The once mighty glaciers on opposite poles of the earth have been whittled down quickly in recent years. Environmental deterioration from climate change has pushed mankind to a very dangerous corner. To reverse or limit global warming, a sweeping and widespread campaign advocating a low-carbon lifestyle should be launched for people around the world.

But the biggest obstacle to this campaign is mankind and this holds true for China.

How does China strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection, between long-term and short-term interests? The questions pose major challenges to the world's largest developing country.

Global warming and ecological degeneration now remain undeniable facts. For every nation, overcoming this crisis can only be achieved, to some extent, at the cost of their own economic development. Improving and maintaining the environment, despite its temporary obstruction to global economic growth, is expected to be a direct driving force behind the long-term and coordinated development of the global economy.

Since the global financial crisis, the Chinese government has made the development of science a major priority to pursue a people-oriented, healthy and sustainable economic model.

This new approach to some extent shows that the government is more aware of the unsustainable nature of its long-held economic model built on high-energy consumption and high pollution. The various calls by the government for a different economic growth formula is not China's passive response to a global environmental crisis, but its active and strategic gesture to hail the coming of the low-carbon era.

For a country whose industrialization and urbanization is accelerating, China's unprecedented emphasis on environmental protection shows the country's determination to revamp its decades-long economic structure, mode of production and attitude toward development. A scientific economic policy is inseparable from a scientific environment policy. An effective and coordinated combination between the two is expected to benefit the cultivation of a green, low-carbon economic model. This is the only path for China to develop in a sustainable way.

Of the $586 billion stimulus package launched by the government in late 2008 amid the global economic recession, more than $200 billion has been used for green development, such as the energy-saving sector, public transportation, recycling waste, sustainable forestry and environmental services. Waste recycling alone is expected to create 10 million new jobs. The government clearly has an arsenal of effective economic tools to create huge opportunities through a new growth focus.

The government is going all out to optimize its industrial structure and re-forge a new economic growth model based on the premise of environmental protection. The encouraging but challenging target - if it is realized by the end of the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) - will be an economic revolution. The enormous economic effects and commercial opportunities created in the process cannot be overstated.

Not only will the Chinese government, the growing public consciousness of environmental protection, public wellness and food safety serve as strong spurs to press ahead with the transformation of its economic growth model, public awareness will also produce huge commercial opportunities for enterprises.

A green, low-carbon and healthy lifestyle is a new symbol of our civilization. A healthy lifestyle is the inevitable choice for Chinese people if we think about the approaching energy, environment and survival problems. If we can instill a sense of crisis among Chinese people and lead them into a green and healthy way of living, it will usher in a broader development prospect for the world's third largest economy.

The author is a researcher with China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies.

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