How to be green – in China

image (8)I am in China at the moment presenting at the Corenet Global Summit in Shanghai about future sustainable workplaces and as I always do while I am here I caught up on what’s happening in China from the China Daily newspaper.

Some interesting times ahead for Green China, here are some snippets – mass urbanisation, consumption, dead ducks and foreign investment in Africa.

Mass Urbanisation 

China is on target to achieve a 60% urbanisation rate by 2020. In 2000 the urbanisation rate in China was 36%, in 2012 it was 52.6% – in 12 years China has moved over 255 million people from country to urban. Every year for 12 years China has moved the equivalent of the whole of the Australian population from country to urban, every year for 12 years China has built the houses and infrastructure for the whole of the Australian population. Wow!

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And it sounds like it has had its challenges.

“The key for the successful reform of urbanisation is the transformation of large-scale city expansion into people orientated urbanisation and making the term ‘migrant worker’ a part of history as soon as possible”, Chi Fulin, President of the China Institute for Reform and Development.

A migrant worker is someone who originates from different province  from the one they are working in.

Wang Jun, a native of Anhui province who lives in Beijing said “I’ve been living here for almost 20 years but I still don’t feel like a Beijing resident”. Still a long way to go then.

A focus on consumption 

Premier Li Keqiang spoke at a two day multinational China Development Forum about the need to “expand China’s opening up policy”, at the same time as “the need to increase domestic consumption through continuing to open up it’s markets”.

The China Daily reported that Premier Li went on to say “Energy-saving and environmental protection are other key areas where domestic companies lag behind their foreign peers and requires “co-operation” with them”.

China has been a long time exporter of products to the rest of the world, but with a growing and ever greater urbanised population the domestic market is growing. Premier Li said that China is likely to import $10 trillion dollars worth of commodities and services over the next five years.

With that many people in cities, increasing air pollution and ever increasing energy demand it’s no wonder that Premier Li’s focus is on energy-efficiency and environmental protection.

Dead Ducks 

The pollutive impact of 720 million people living in cities is starting to take it’s toll. On top of the world wide media coverage of air pollution in Beijing and the melamine contamination of baby powder there has been more recent media coverage within China of very noticeable river pollution.

A few days ago 10,000 dead pigs were pulled out of the Huangpu River, a major source of tap water for Shanghai. More recently 1,000 dead ducks were pulled out of a river in Pengshan county, Sichuan province.

Whether it is because of a lack of awareness of the down stream impact of rural farmers, pigs being factory farmed or many other reasons the impact is the same the rivers that are relied upon to feed and water 1.35 billion people must be a countries greatest asset.

Foreign Investment in Africa 

Big focus on this in the media at the moment with the 5th Annual Summit of the BRICS economies in Durban titled “BRICS and Africa – Partnerships for integration and industrialisation”. The leaders of the BRICS economies are in Durban to discuss the promotion of African infrastructure development, the establishment of a BRICS led development bank, a BRICS think tank and a BRICS Business Council. A new force to be reckoned with for sure.

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China has been a long term trading partner with South Africa and in 2009 became South Africa’s leading trading partner with trade between the two countries at $25.6 billion, imports from South Africa to China reached $14.8 billion.

China has also been involved in the financing and construction of infrastructure in Africa since the 1970s, and is ever increasing.

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There is a lot of criticism about China’s investment in Africa and Australia, but isn’t it what most developed countries have been doing all along anyway?

The Future 

China still has to urbanise another two whole Australias before it reaches its 60% urbanisation rate by 2020 – that’s a lot of homes, infrastructure and people to move. The social implications are huge.

The air pollution, food contamination and dead ducks are making the citizens of China worried.

China investment overseas continues, particularly in Africa – the developing countries are certainly standing together now.

Premier Li is quite rightly calling for energy-efficiency and environmental protection, and even asking or suggesting that assistance for this comes from outside China is huge.

The future for Green China is certainly looking rosy. They have a carbon emissions per person rate less than a third of the average Australian. They have an ecological footprint per person less than one planet, the average Australian has one of four planets. If they can keep their current levels of carbon and eco-footprint the same per person whilst expanding and urbanising then they can likely achieve what Australia needs to but is unlikely to achieve.

2 Comments on “How to be green – in China”

  1. so is this a great opportunity for non-chinese sustainability consultants or is it a threat to the rest of the world, at a time when people in the west seem to be finally catching on to the idea that global warming is having a serious impact?is it possible to join up the dots, to foster collaborative solutions?

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