As the trailer for this new documentary from Mandarin Films makes clear, the global environmental crisis will be solved in China, not in America, for the simple reason that China has no other option. As I noted recently in my post on ecological civilization in China, there is a widespread recognition in China that the paradigm of industrial civilization must be changed so that China can bring economic development to its people without a correspondingly large increase in its ecological footprint.
The interesting point made in the trailer is that the failure of the Copenhagen summit points simply to the fact that China cannot wait for the world to get its act together. Rather, China can rely only on itself.
In fact, this is not a new theme in modern Chinese history. Maoism was famous for its voluntaristic spirit, in which the efforts of the people were called upon to prevail against all obstacles to building the new China. Moreover, China’s enormous economic and political engagement with Africa and Latin America at present is a continuation of the paradigm developed after the Sino-Soviet split, when China saw itself isolated from both cold war superpowers.
For rapidly developing countries such as China, the key question is how to enable development to take place without destroying the natural foundations for life. China feels this question more keenly than any other country because it has to feed 20 per cent of the world’s population and yet only 13% of its territory is arable land. As a World Watch report points out, the per capita amount of arable land in China is one-eighth the level of the USA, and one-half that of India. The issue of arable land is so severe that China the government has had to issue injunctions against the further conversion of arable land to other uses.
The “dark” side of the film trailer is that the rise of the new, green China is to be interpreted as a way to world domination in the 21st century. The not-so subtle subtext here is that if the West does not get on board with ecological civilization, it will lose its place in the world to China.