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China is greener than you’d think

In the past ten years, China officially received the green award Champions of the Earth from the United Nations for more than five times.
As a developing country, the presence of China in such a event is no small feat. It is even more interesting when we consider how China’s ecology laws have been discussed for long time.
Indeed, such an achievement shows that things are ready to change… or not?
In 2017, the Champions of the Earth award went to six inspirational environmental leaders worldwide: the choice went to China for three times, while one went to Chile, and two to the USA.
In that year, the entrepreneurial vision award was achieved by the bike-renting company Mobike, which provides bike sharing services all over China as well as in other countries – joining environmental sustainability with technology. An idea that was later successfully adopted by many firms, including huge corporations such as Jack Ma‘s Alibaba… which last year won its own inspiration and action award through the green mini-app Antforest, integrated inside Alipay.
On the other hand, the lifetime achievement award was achieved by Wang Weibiao, the “son of the desert” chairman of Elion Resources Group, who managed to beat the desertification trends in Inner Mongolia, recovering around 12.000 square km of wasteland. Thanks also to the support of the Chinese government, Wang Weibiao managed to increase the productivity of a huge portion of land, helping poor farmers to improve their life conditions, as well as helping business to thrive in the area by making the construction of better infrastructure possible, in an area where desert used to make everything much harder than normal.

Saihanba, in Hebei. In 1962, the tree shown was surviving alone in a wasteland. After three generations of efforts, Saihanba’s forest was reborn. Source: China Daily

Finally, the inspiration and action award, given to Saihanba Afforestation Community, was the coronation of a massive investment of time and energies into bringing trees back to an area destroyed by uncontrolled fires and deforestation. The Chinese government recognized its mistakes done during the 1950s and supported the plan since 1962, helping a total of three generations achieve this result. Similar initiatives have been backed all over China’s desert areas, in order to prevent the wasteland from advancing and helping people from poorer provinces to improve their quality of life.

Thinking that 2017 was an exceptional year for China’s green effort could not be more far from the reality: two of the feats where actually realized in dozens of years, and many other green initiatives have been backed up by both private and state investment.
With China’s economy growing so fast, Chairman Xi Jinping pointed out that the nature is an invaluable asset: it is considered as pure gold, and protecting the ecosystem is extremely important, as it will sustain the following generations just like it sustained the previous ones.
“A good ecological environment is the fairest public product and the most accessible welfare for the people.”
Chinese people do actually have an history of their state interventions to protect the ecosystem, thanks to the the knowledge about how a species can support the existence of another, and the importance given to the success of the agriculture – which was so important that alone it could make an entire dynasty fall.
Legal bans where issued by ancient Chinese dynasties to prevent people from fishing or cutting trees during specific parts of the year when they were supposed to thrive – with a logic extremely similar to many environmental laws today.
During the Qin dynasty, the government actively protected the natural course of the rivers and prevented trees (except in summer) from being cut to be converted into fertilizer.
While China’s quick industrialization took its toll on the environment, it would be wrong to believe that Chinese did not care about the ecosystem, or that they wouldn’t see their own faults.
Even if China hadn’t proper examples of green development strategies from the West and support by developed countries, they could learn lots from their own past.
Luckily, the international cooperation for green development is very high, and the entire planet is benefiting of it.

Although China has still a lot to improve to ensure a society which can ecologically be self-sustainable, it may well be on the right road to achieve it – and it has the right attitude to undo its eventual mistakes.

2 thoughts on “China is greener than you’d think”

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