Beyond Pollution: China’s Eco-Revolution

Source: The Green Long March, greenchinanow

With over 20 percent of the overseas Chinese population living in Canada, it’s time we ask about what a more eco-friendly China means for our side of the Pacific.

Yes, we’ve all seen the pictures: coal-streaked skies and bleak industrial towns. China is seriously, cancerously polluted.

Environmental slogans about our shared “one planet” have never been more accurate: toxins, pesticides and other scary chemicals from China regularly reach the western coastlines of Canada as they float to the Arctic.

Yet while China may be the earth’s most polluted country, it is also arguably its greenest.

Here are the numbers: Last year China invested $34 billion in clean technology and will soon become the world’s largest producer – and consumer – of alternative energy.

In the upcoming 12th Five Year Plan, China’s economic blueprint until 2015, the government is expected to put US$1.5 trillion towards green jobs and industries.

That kind of money could pay off Canada’s some $40-billion dollar national deficit and buy a Prius hybrid car for every citizen in the country.

Upwards of 3,000 Green organizations form the largest and boldest part of China’s civil society. Even once-controversial Greenpeace is regularly quoted in state newspapers.

Yet despite Canada’s diverse Asian population, when it comes to green work, we often don’t speak the same language. Non-profit Rangi Changi is one of Canada’s few voices on multicultural environmentalism - the idea that diverse communities should "work together for a fair and healthy planet."

China is poised to lead the world in clean energy. Chinese environmentalists are speaking up on both sides of the Pacific.

For our collective future, we need to listen to what they have to say.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.


This blog posting captures the immense contradiction of environmental issues in China, particularly a side-by-side comparison of the photos in your first link with the encouraging optimism of the young people in the video. What is your sense of the solve-ability of the problem? Can the combination of ambitious five-year plans and grassroots activism really turn back the pollution tide in China? Or is the engine of polluting industry in China basically an unstopable train?
Do these green and clean new practices include respect for human capital and human and worker rights? Based on what little I have read, human rights, which I consider to be the most "Green" issue of all, are not mentioned in stories about Chinese corporations using green business practices. Why do you think there is this disconnect? Do you see Chinese big business ever moving to promote human rights and worker protections as part of their "Green" practices?
Perhaps China's strange balance between their green initiatives and their pollution idleness is because they are just not ready to give up their big businesses and factories. These companies, after all, fund those green initiatives, which results in greater popularity in the green race that the world is set on. This gives China an excuse to continue running their polluting factories: the world cannot get angry at them for largely contributing to the depletion of ozone with their large factories because they are one of the largest countries to invest in clean technology and other green initiatives. These big companies also bring about their economic wealth, resulting in their savoured super-power status. In my opinion, this is not an "unstoppable train" that China is on. Perhaps it is a matter of re-examining the distribution of public funds, and re-evaluating the priorities of their country (economic wealth vs. commitment to contributing to a greener world). Maybe Canada could learn from this example- set out on Green initiatives funded publicly rather than depending on the corporate economy to fund them.

Add new comment

Use 'AND' or 'OR' to refine your search.

Use quotes " " to get exact matches or remove them to get more results.