The Environment And Economy: An Emerging Balance In China

2557 words - 10 pages

Since the very inception of China’s history, economic progress has been the nation’s top priority. The Chinese government has always stressed to its citizens that they will be rewarded with perpetual economic growth insofar as social stability and respect for the party-state are maintained. While this system has enabled China to develop further, bringing about many shared benefits, it has also proven to have detrimental impacts on the environment. For some time, the issue of environmental degradation was of no concern because the nation was experiencing such tremendous growth and as a result, a higher standard of living. However, China is currently embracing a paradigm shift in its priorities, as citizens have pressured the central government to take more affirmative actions in protecting the environment, even if it hinders economic gain. There is now hope that the nation will balance the economy with environmental preservation, which may ultimately lead to increased development through sustainable policy.
When Mao Zedong first rose to power, the notion of economic growth over environmental protection was instilled in the nation. Moreover, nature was perceived as “an enemy to be vanquished, not an ally to be cultivated”, and this philosophy was later espoused by Deng Xiaoping (11). In his work, What Does China Think, Mark Leonard asserts that Deng encapsulated the ideology of “economic growth-at-all-costs” in his famous expression: “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white. All that matters is that it catches mice” (6). Over the past twenty years, China has developed economically as a result of “Black Cat GDP growth”, but Leonard points to a new indicator of economic growth, “the Green Cat”, which is propounded by Hu Angang, a renowned intellectual (6). This particular “Cat” measures GDP based on the utilization cost of natural resources, such as “land, minerals, forests, water, and fisheries” as well as the cost associated with rectifying ecological debilitation, otherwise known as “Green GDP” indicators (6).
The foremost deputy director of the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), Pan Yue, issued an official report in 2006, highlighting China’s “Green GDP”; he predicted “China’s economic miracle” would soon come to an end because the environment could “no longer keep peace” (6). The report conveyed that industrial and commercial pollution were responsible for an equivalent of $64 billion in damage across China, accounting for 3.05% of the year’s GDP (6). Complementary to Pan’s report, one of China’s premier environmental officials, Zhou Shengxian, also released a report identifying the ramifications of “51,000 pollution-related protests”, which all occurred in 2005 (6). Pan Yue, now the Vice Minster of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, remained confident that these findings would one day help persuade the central government to re-evaluate its economic strategy, and the recent completion of the Third...

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