中国与世界,环境危机大家谈

china and the world discuss the environment

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“The rich consume and the poor suffer the pollution”

Pan Yue

Zhou Jigang

Readinch

Pan Yue, deputy director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, sparked debate with his recent essay On Socialist Ecological Civilisation. Here, he tells Zhou Jigang about the global inequalities that threaten China's environment.

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Zhou Jigang: We all know the global environmental crisis is worsening. What is the cause of this change?

Pan Yue: The fundamental cause is the capitalist system. The environmental crisis has become a new means of transferring the economic crisis.

ZJ: You met with representatives of the German Green Party in April and discussed, among other things, ecological socialism and sustainable development. What is the purpose of studying eco-socialism?

PY: Actually, the Green Party does not represent eco-socialism.

I study eco-socialism, but that is not to say I am in full support of it. It is too idealistic and lacks ways of solving actual problems, particularly for developing countries. However, it does provide political reference for China’s scientific view of development, and gives socialist ideology room to expand. More importantly, it gives a theoretical basis for the establishment of fair international rules.

ZJ: How did eco-socialism come into being. What does it consist of?

PY: The green movement arose out of a re-evaluation of western industrial civilisation. Although the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution were all contributing factors to the birth of western industrial civilisation, the root cause was colonialism, which permitted the large-scale relocation of developed countries’ economic and social contradictions. To ensure this relocation could proceed smoothly, capitalism created a set of international rules to protect its own interests, and environmental issues are a case in point. Developed countries account for 15% of the world’s population, yet use over 85% of its resources. They raise their own environmental standards and transfer resource-intensive and polluting industries to developing nations; they establish a series of green barriers and bear as little environmental responsibility as is possible. In the end, the green movement found that any problem can be relocated, except pollution, because we all live on the same planet.

Green activists believe that although capitalism and socialism are political opposites, they are identical in the way in which they industrialise and are both products of Western industrial economics. Some of them believe that the intrinsic aims of socialism are more suited to an ecological society. In comparison with capitalism – and excluding productive forces – socialism is fairer, puts more emphasis on morality and honesty, and is more able to provide people with fully-rounded development. In particular, green activists and socialists are able to agree on balancing economic growth and the environment, equality of distribution and grassroots democracy.

After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, new Marxist thinkers found that ecological issues presented a heaven-sent opportunity to expose the capitalist system and unite socialists. They sought out ecological viewpoints in the works of Marx and Engels, in statements such as: “naturalism is humanism, and humanism is socialism;” “the relationship between man and nature is that between man and man, just as the relationship between man and man is that between man and nature;” and “our world faces two revolutions – reconciliation between man and nature, and between men themselves.” They laid the blame for the global environmental crisis at the feet of the capitalist system, and proposed using Marxist dialectics to repudiate a purely economic rationality.

In this way, environmental activists and socialists started to unite, with many former Communist Party members and leftists participating. Politically, this union became known as the “red-green alliance”, ideologically as eco-socialism.

ZJ: China, a socialist country, apart from facing the environmental colonialism of developed capitalist nations, is also seeing its own rapid economic development exacerbate the environmental crisis. How should China’s current environmental crisis be viewed?

PY: “Sustainable development” is commonly defined as economic growth, environmental protection and social justice. “Social justice” is a core concept of “sustainable development” and also a core aim of socialism. So, in theory, socialism is more suited to the realisation of sustainable development than capitalism. But China's environmental crisis has arisen, basically, because our mode of economic modernisation has been copied from western, developed nations.  

In 20 years, China has achieved economic results that took a century to attain in the west. But we have also concentrated a century’s worth of environmental issues into those 20 years. While becoming the world leader in GDP growth and foreign investment, we have also become the world’s number one consumer of coal, oil and steel – and the largest producer of CO2 and chemical oxygen demand (COD) emissions.

With the rise of globalisation, developed countries have transferred their industry to developing nations as a form of environmental colonialism. In China, pollution has been moved from east to west and from the city to the rural areas. The rich consume and the poor suffer the pollution. The economic and environmental inequalities caused by a flawed understanding of growth and political achievement, held by some officials, have gone against the basic aims of socialism and abandoned the achievements of Chinese socialism.

As a socialist country, China should unite with other developing countries to oppose an international economic order which causes environmental inequality. Domestically, it should establish systems to prevent unbalanced development from causing environmental risks. From this we can see the wisdom and correctness of the political ideals put forward by the Communist Party Central Committee: the scientific view of development and the construction of a harmonious, resource-conserving and environmentally-friendly society – and how urgent and necessary it is to promote an entirely new type of industrialisation.

ZJ: You once said that an ecological civilisation is the fourth stage of human civilisation, and an advance on the previous stage of industrial civilisation. What problems and strengths does China face in achieving this stage?

PY: Western countries are currently replacing traditional industrial civilisation with eco-industrial civilisation. This involves the three main ideals of sustainable development (environmental protection, preservation of resources and ecological balance), some aspects of Protestant ethics and the main points of eco-socialism, along with new production and lifestyle concepts such as circular economies, new energy sources and green consumption.

China’s circumstances, in particular the imbalance between its population, resources and environment, mean that traditional western industrial civilisation is not an option. China is a socialist country and cannot engage in environmental colonialism, nor act as a hegemony, so it must move towards a new type of civilisation. Ideas such as the scientific view of development and building a harmonious, resource-saving and environmentally-friendly society, as put forward by the Central Committee in recent years, have laid the foundation for doing so.

A significant number of people see a scientific view of development as simply a change in the mode of economic growth, even believing that establishing a resource-saving and environmentally-friendly society is merely a matter of technology. But that is only one aspect. The scientific view of development seeks a comprehensive and sustainable change of politics, economics, society, culture and theory – a transformation of civilisation. And so, the period between now and 2020 will be crucial in determining whether China can complete this transformation from traditional to eco-industrial civilisation.

China faces some difficulties in achieving this. Firstly, there is a tension between our population, resources and environment. Secondly, in today’s world, each country vies for energy, resources and the environment. We cannot export our pollution as developed countries can. We must resolutely work towards to a new style of industrialisation, whatever the price. Japan is a good example of this.

Our strengths lie in the rich historical, cultural and theoretical resources we can carry forward. We are in east Asia, we can learn from the experience of combining Confucianism with industrial civilisation, and also draw upon the successful combination of European socialism with western civilisation. Our socialist political theory contains within it the core concept of eco-industrial civilisation – social justice. We are already working tirelessly to make the construction of a socialist environmental culture and ecological civilisation our duty and mission.


Pan Yue is deputy director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). Part of a new generation of outspoken Chinese senior officials, Pan has given rise to a tide of environmental debate, attracting enormous attention and controversy. On Socialist Environmentalism was published in China Economic Times on September 26, 2006.

Zhou Jigang, formerly of Economics magazine and Hong Kong’s Phoenix Weekly, has focuses on in-depth reporting about macroeconomics and current affairs. His investigations into radioactive pollution in Baotou and China’s underground industries both caused great controversy in China.

Also by Pan Yue on chinadialogue: The environment needs public participation

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潘局长好!

“任何矛盾都可以转移,唯有污染转移不了,因为大家都不幸生在一个地球。”讲得太好了!贵网站把这篇文章发出来还是值得表扬的,这才是真正的对话。

Vice Minister Pan is great!

"All manner of contradiction can be transferred elsewhere, except for pollution, because all of us have the misfortune of living on one planet." Well put! It is truly praiseworthy that your website has published this article. Now this is a real dialogue.


每次听到潘岳这个名字,我心中就有种莫名的钦佩和感动,正是这位在我看来更象学者的官员使我们对环境前景充满了信心.他的一言一行,都直指中国环境问题的要害.庆幸我们有这样一位真正为中国人负责的高官.

Each time I hear Pan Yue's name, I feel inexplicable admiration and emotion. It is this government official, who to me seems more like a scholar, who makes us full confidence about the future prospects of the environment. Everything he says and does points directly to the key aspects of China's environmental dilemmas. We are fortunate to have a high official of this sort who truly desires to take responsibility for the Chinese people.


支持潘岳!

这位不像官员的官员,有着强烈的“士大夫”情结,为民请命,为国尽忠,所以也总是伴随着各种各样的争议。

Support Pan Yue

He is the official who does act like an official, with strong complex of scholar-bureaucrat who appeals for the people and devotes himself for the country. So what he does always invites different kinds of controversies.


也许您是对的,问题的根本就是资本主义制度问题。中国也是如此。

也许是我的浅薄,如果一种社会制度真的能够对环境起作用,如果中国走的真是所谓的绿色路线,中国的环保如何如此之差。中国已经成了世界各国的加工厂,而政府对于这种环境污染的转移不仅不管不问,而且还特殊优待。中国的大部分土地良田都成了工厂,仓库。一方面不断表扬环境工作到位,一方面继续污染破坏。治标不治本能行吗?

而对于最近政府的诸多“工程”,三峡工程、南水北调...实在不敢恭维。稍微有点常识的人都知道,这些工程到底是以环境可持续为重,还是暂时的资源危机为重。并且这些工程的副作用远远超过其真正的价值,而国家却只字不提,又作何解?

也许您是对的,问题的根本就是资本主义制度问题。中国也是如此。

Maybe you are right, the root of the problem is the capitalist system

Perhaps I am being superficial, but if a certain type of social system can really have an effect on the environment, if China is really treading the so-called "green path", how can China's environment be in such bad shape? China has already become the processing plant of all nations worldwide. Yet the government's method of dealing with the environmental pollution this causes is not only to neglect its management, but also to give it a unique form of special treatment. The majority of Chinese land suitable for agriculture has been turned into factory and warehouse space. On the one hand, we constantly praise the targets that environmental work has met; on the other hand, we continue to pollute and destroy the environment. If we find temporary solutions but don't get to the root of the problem, is that acceptable? And as for the government's many "construction projects" of late, the Three Gorges dam, the south-to-north water diversion project...I really do not dare compliment them. Anyone with a little bit of sense knows that in the end, these construction projects are about prioritizing either environmental sustainability or temporary resource crises. And the side-effects of these construction projects by far exceed their true value, yet the nation doesn't mention even a word about it. How can one explain this? Maybe you are right, the root of the problem is the capitalist system. This also applies to China.


生态殖民

我们的政府因为眼光短浅,一直以来大力欢迎生态殖民,给予跨国企业各种优惠条件来中国建高能耗的产业。而且,这些在本国严格遵守环境法规的企业,到中国却无视中国环境法而任意排污,甚至成为很多地方最主要的污染源。等我们觉醒到这是生态殖民的时候,我们是否应该去要求生态补偿?我们还要得回来吗?发达国家因产业转移对发展中国家所造成的生态损失该如何计算?

Ecological colonizers

Because our government is short-sighted, it continuously makes a great effort to welcome in "ecological colonizers", giving multinational businesses all manner of favorable conditions to come to China and set up high energy consuming industries. Furthermore, when these industries, which strictly adhere to environmental laws in their home countries, come to China, they disregard Chinese environmental law and contaminate at will, in many places even becoming the main source of pollution. When the time comes for us to wake up to the "ecological colonizers", should we demand "ecological compensation" from them? Will we still want it back? How should we calculate the ecological damage due to the transfer of industry that industrialized nations have caused towards developing nations?


环境外交

环境外交在环境问题全球化的时候显得尤其重要。建议潘局多出去跟各国环境官员交流和交涉。中国的环境问题是全世界共同造成的,当然也需要国际的援助和支持。

Environmental diplomacy

Environmental diplomacy is clearly of especial importance in a time when environmental issues are becoming globalized. I suggest that Vice Minister Pan go abroad to exchange ideas and negotiate with environment officials worldwide. China's environmental dilemmas are produced collectively by the global community, so of course we also need international assistance and support.


中国只能走自己的路

中国人口众多、资源相对较为紧缺、环境脆弱、还有相当的人口处在贫困或仅仅温饱的水平。所以要实现快速的经济增长,牺牲环境是不可避免的。要么牺牲本国环境,要么牺牲其他国家的环境。

我认为,要想真正解决环境问题,必须强化国际间的环境保护的框架。这是唯一有效的途径。同时,发达国家必须为发展中国家的环境保护提供更多的援助。因为这些发达国家的原始积累都是通过过去大量破坏全球的环境形成的,这笔帐必须算进来。

China can only tread its own path

China's population is huge, and its resources by comparison relatively scarce. The environment is vulnerable, and quite a large part of the population has a living standard that is either below the poverty line or only meets basic needs. Therefore, if you want to implement rapid economic growth, sacrificing the environment is inevitable. Either you sacrifice your own country's environment or the environment of other countries. In my opinion, if you really want to resolve environmental problems, you have to strengthen the international framework of environmental conservation. This is the only effective path. At the same time, industrialized nations must provide more assistance to environmental conservation in developing nations. Because the origins of accumulated wealth in industrialized nations are based on the large-scale, global destruction of the environment in the past, this cost has to be taken into account.


环境问题需要全球视角的解决方案

中国人口众多、资源相对较为紧缺、环境脆弱、还有相当的人口处在贫困或仅仅温饱的水平。所以要实现快速的经济增长,牺牲环境是不可避免的。要么牺牲本国环境,要么牺牲其他国家的环境。

我认为,要想真正解决环境问题,必须强化国际间的环境保护的框架。这是唯一有效的途径。同时,发达国家必须为发展中国家的环境保护提供更多的援助。因为这些发达国家的原始积累都是通过过去大量破坏全球的环境形成的,这笔帐必须算进来。

Environmental problems need a global perspective for their solution

The Chinese population is very large, and natural resources are scarce by comparison. The environment is frgaile, and the bulk of the population lives at an impoverished or barely subsistence level. It's necessary therefore to implement top-speed economic growth, and sacrificing the environment is unavoidable. We sacrifice our own country's environment, as we sacrifice the environment of other countries. I believe that if one really wants to solve environmental problems, one must truly strengthen the framework of international protection. This is the only effective way. At the same time, developed countries must offer developing countries more aid for environmental protection. Because these developed countries' original financial accumulation all came through past, large-scale destruction of the global environment, this account must be calculated.


先下手为强

这真是个先下手为强的世界。发达国家在大家还没意识到环境问题的时候把全球资源糟蹋了一遍,然后把自己国家收拾干净,把污染转移到穷困的发展中国家,却不告诉他们这样会危及子孙后代。然后这会儿他们又嫌我们脏了,嫌我们对全球环境造成威胁了。我们难道想破坏环境吗?我们不喜欢蓝天绿树吗?可是我们得生存啊!好在上帝是公平的,“大家都不幸生在同一个地球”,连沙尘暴都能刮到美国去,太好了!

Those who act first are strongest

This is really a world where those who act first are strongest. At a time when we had yet to perceive envrionmental problems, industrialized nations abused natural resources worldwide. Then they cleaned up their own countries, transferring pollution to poor developing nations, yet without telling these nations that this pollution would imperil later generations. Then they scolded us, scolded us for the environmental threat we are generating for the world. Do we really want to destroy the environment? Don't we like blue skies and green trees? Yet we have to make a living! Fortunately, God is just, "everyone has the misfortune of living on just one planet". Even sand storms can blast over to the United States, and that's great!


生态文明

生态文明的提法真是好啊。顶一下,有识之士们一起来大力宣扬~~

Ecological civilization

"Ecological civilization" really is a nice catch-phrase. Let's add to it, and let the aware thinkers among us make an effort to advocate it...


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