Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Capitalist or Communist? Green ambitions on the rise!

Since the first moment I realized I would be moving to the US, I started to notice and gather similarities on China and the US. Some are quite obvious:

- Both are big countries
- This leads to big 'problems' (environment, infrastructure, governance, corruption)
- They have important roles to play on an international level
- They are focused on themselves more than the outside
- The people have a "Can Do" attitude, which is necessary to get where you want in this society
- Both countries represent a well-known culture, attitude or system: be it Capitalist, Confucianist, Christian or Communist (or all of the above?)

Anyway, right around my change of scenes TIME Magazine posted an interesting article on the 5 things the US can learn from China! I recommend reading it.

To summarize they are:
1. Ambition
2. Education
3. Elderly care
4. Saving money
5. Look over the horizon - the Chinese dream!

Now, I do agree that these 5 points are true, but I feel that TIME Magazine was making things a little bit too glorious for the Chinese in their article. I chose to pick on "Ambition".

(Blind) Ambition?
For instance, the author Bill Powell, criticizes the American NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) attitude compared to the Chinese IMBY.
Those Chinese who need to move from their ancestral homes because of urban or industrial development don't get to choose or to vote on these projects. Most choose the way of the least resistance, a new apartment in a block with other co-villages to keep them together and recreate their village feeling.
Although projects can take very long in the US (and even more so in Europe) at least proper Environmental Impact Assessment is done and the necessary permits and procedures around these projects are aimed at protecting people and the environment, instead of blindly following capitalist endeavors. If a project is sensible, project developers or governments should be able to explain it to residents, they owe it to us!

I have seen with my own eyes the kind of grand projects referred to in the TIME article. A new port here, a new urban center there, a new railroad, a new canal to transport water for more than 1500 miles! Oh, let's relocate 5 million residents...China is a big place, some projects are successful: Beijing was redone beautifully for the 2008 Olympics, urban development in general seems to work reasonably well so far. However, regional ambition and power hungry provincial leaders have endorsed all kinds of large developments in China's provinces that are dubious, daft and even dangerous!

Green Ambitions
Back to these large developments, however, we can also find ambition for sustainable development and corporate social sustainability. With lower labor and material costs, highly educated engineers and many "out-of-the-box" ideas China does show the ambition to become the leader of the "Global Green Revolution" or "Clean Revolution" (the technological and scientific development of a green and clean world economy).

Western companies are also riding the Green Wave in China, for instance Pepsi or DSM, and many more.

This ambition I do fully support. Go Green!

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