Greta Thunberg, the environmentally friendly girl, has caused trouble around the world over the past year. Although her words and deeds are controversial all over the world, in China, people who can agree with Thunberg are even rarer. If the Thunberg simply offends China, the facts do not match: because the Thunberg does not speak too much about China than it does for the West.
So why do the Chinese still have such obvious opposition to such a “harmless” role?
The concept and way of environmental protection of the Chinese people are very different from those of the West
Unlike many people, China is not a country with no environmental behavior at all and an extreme lack of awareness of environmental protection.
Is that really the case? In April 2019, the United Nations Environment Programme selected Alipay Ant Forest as one of the “Annual Environmental Practice Cases”. Ant Forest is a built-in application of app Alipay, a Chinese national owned by Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group. This app builds a social game scene within the app, but unlike the usual social games, the ant forest’s “way of playing” is a series of the environmental behavior of users in real life. Such as walking, public transport, electronic payment, online payment and so on. And the feedback of the game is also a real change: when users achieve certain achievements, Alipay will donate money to desertification areas for users, plant a real sapling, and use the power of hundreds of millions of users in China to plant one “forest after another.”
By the end of August 2019, Ant Forest users had reached 500 million, with a cumulative carbon emission reduction of more than 7.92 million tons, 122 million true trees planted, and a total planting area of more than 1.68 million mu(one mu equals to 0.0667 square kilometer). This is not only a miracle of China’s environmental protection but also worldwide acclaim: the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Green Digital Financial Alliance, Fortune magazine, Harvard case Bank and other organizations have praised the environmental uniqueness of ant forests in different scenarios.
In fact, not only Ant Forest but one of the earliest environmental actions of the people’s Republic of China is the Baolan Railway, which is closely related to the control of desertification. The Baolan Railway, which started in 1954, was a key project of the year, and the Chinese government is determined to mobilize a lot of resources to focus on the project. Although the Baolan railway with length 990km is not very long, it has to cross the vast desert in northwest China, and it is unrealistic to build a railway in the desert, so the earliest desert control in New China began.
Chinese engineers, in line with the idea that “environmental protection means no end”, initially just wanted to simply protect against wind and sand, grass for a short period of maintenance, to ensure railway construction, but soon found that too much investment and the effect is not good. Finally, after gradually exploring, China has developed a long-term control measure of “restoring vegetation and conserving soil and water”. This kind of desertification control thought is still affecting the desert transformation in China and has made key achievements in northern China.
But China’s sand control process is also very long and tortuous. In the future, the “vegetation restoration and soil conservation” initiative, which will become the core of sand control, can only be applied to a few special scenarios in poor China at the time, such as in order to ensure the construction of key projects. In the early days of the people’s Republic of China, a large number of water diversion fields-not so much for greening as for grain-not only did not transform deserts and deserts but created a larger area of desertification. If we really begin to realize the seriousness of combating desertification, it will have to be after the reform and opening up. And China’s grassroots really have the ability to carry out effective sand control but until the turn of the century.
In any case, China’s desert governance has been going on for decades and is likely to last for a hundred years in the future. From this, it can be seen that the Chinese prefer to carry out long-term, planned and verifiable environmental protection plans, and are willing to pay for them, rather than environmental performances or environmental publicity that do not have obvious effects on the spur of the moment-the latter is represented by individuals who do more than they actually do, as well as promotional activities such as “Earth hour” advocated by WWF. In the eyes of the Chinese, an hour’s power outage is not good for environmental protection, it is just a kind of “expression of determination”.
On the other hand, China lacks the political soil to promote “environmental politics”.
Needless to say, with the exception of a small number of people who believe in environmentalism and regard environmental protection as a faith, many of the initiatives or bills that link the majority of the people of the West to environmental protection are deliberately led and sponsored by left-wing politicians. Under China’s political system and environment, few people can seize power by promoting environmental protection, which makes environmental protection not closely linked to politics for a long time, and ordinary Chinese people will not take positions and draw boundaries because of “environmental protection or not.” Naturally, they will not be incited by extreme remarks and “political figures” related to environmental protection to make all kinds of fanatical actions.
Similar to political factors, China also lacks the religious atmosphere of “worshipping sacred idols”. In ancient times, although the theories of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism of religion or similar religion were widely spread in China, the relatively pragmatic Confucianism prevailed, and the worship of God or idol at any spiritual level was soon interpreted by the Chinese as a belief in the ruling ability of the rulers and the happiness of the people’s lives-or, in the religious rituals of China, the worship of God was replaced by prayer to God. The prayer is more pragmatic than religious.
As a result, there is little worship of “spiritual idols” with religious symbols in Chinese history. Without Nikolai, the German shepherd, and Etienne, the French shepherd, there is no miserable “child crusade” around them. So when Thunberg shows up as a girl, the Chinese don’t think she’s “sacred”, but usually, just think she’s an exploited underage victim.
More importantly, the Chinese hate the double standards and hostile propaganda of some environmentalists
Not long ago, “PaperClip Video”, the author of a popular science video in China, sparked widespread controversy among Chinese netizens, including a series of controversial video works, including a popular science video entitled “the decline of Brazil’s rainforest caused by Chinese eating meat”.
There is no doubt that the truth that the video is trying to tell is very absurd. Compared with developed countries, China’s per capita meat consumption is very low; moreover, the protection of rainforests is Brazil’s job, China is neither willing, in fact, nor able to work on behalf of China, so it should not blame China for its internal problems.
The United States, which has more influence in the Americas and consumes far more meat per capita than China, may have more reason to pay attention to the Amazon jungle, according to video’s theory, but the Chinese do not think so either. China adheres to the diplomatic principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, the vast majority of Chinese do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and relatively do not want other countries to interfere in China’s internal affairs, and hope that every country and every country can do so-thus, in the Chinese view, Brazil’s rainforest can only be the responsibility of Brazilians themselves.
However, it is not only the Chinese author “PaperClip Video”, but many comments from various countries and various media have blamed China on many problems of climate warming and vegetation reduction in the world. This is, in the eyes of the Chinese, an obvious “imperialist” act. The reason is that residents in developed countries enjoy a better life, higher per capita consumption of food and meat, as well as special hobbies for crops such as coffee, and are not qualified to accuse Chinese people in developed countries of “eating” and “eating meat” far lower than those in developed countries.
On the other hand, China has experienced thousands of years of widespread poverty and hunger. The rapid development of recent decades has lifted the vast majority of Chinese out of poverty and began to live a comfortable life of “full food”. At this time, if someone tells the Chinese that you should give up the comfort of your difficult life and return to the poverty of the past, the Chinese are emotionally unacceptable-or if the Chinese want the “developed countries” to set an example, China should return to the state of “poverty” one step ahead. Otherwise, media people in developed countries who are well-nourished are not qualified to tell the Chinese about their way of life.
This prejudice is being exploited by some members of the media. The “paper clip” mentioned above, as a popular science writer in China, has a good understanding of the actual situation in China and the feelings of the Chinese people. In fact, their “double standards” (denouncing only China but not the more problematic western developed countries) will only be released on YouTube, which Chinese netizens believe is deliberately courting foreigners in a narrative familiar to foreigners.
So, how is China’s environmental protection business going?
Needless to say, China’s carbon emissions are still amazing, which is closely related to China’s industrial structure. In terms of output value, China is the largest manufacturing country in the world, producing a considerable part of the world’s goods. This has kept China’s carbon emissions on the high side.
However, China’s environmental protection cause is objectively very successful. In terms of desertification control alone, China has achieved the best desertification control achievements in human history: China’s desertification land has grown from an average annual expansion of 10400 square kilometers at the end of the last century to an average annual reduction of 2424 square kilometers at present, and the area of desertification land has changed from an average annual expansion of 3436 square kilometers at the end of the last century to an average annual reduction of 1980 square kilometers at present.
The amazing change of desert and desert numbers is reflected in an ancient “sandy land” into an oasis on the map. For example, the Kubuqi Desert, which covers a total area of 18600 square kilometers, is the seventh-largest desert in China. Today, after nearly 30 years of persistent governance, the 1 / 3 area of the Kubuqi Desert has become an oasis — an annoying desert that has succumbed to the persistence of the Chinese. Such examples have been innumerable in the process of controlling desertification in China.
The Chinese have never forgotten the core idea that “environmental protection is just a means”. In the process of combating desertification, local farmers and herdsmen often receive assistance from the government and various environmental protection foundations, so that they can regard sand control as a cause and become rich while fighting sand.
Some large Internet companies, such as Alibaba and Meituan, have also used their own extensive Chinese “national app” such as Alipay and Meituan takeout to encourage users to make environmental and low-carbon actions. Once users practice low-carbon lifestyles, such as walking instead of cars, public transport instead of private cars, online payments to avoid printing documents, takeout to reduce the use of disposable tableware, Alibaba and Meituan will donate a small sum of money on behalf of users to environmental protection funds. In this way, through the Internet, China has not only encouraged an environmentally friendly and low-carbon lifestyle but also received practical funds to assist the frontline environmental protection cause.
In terms of industrial production, the government has always rewarded low-pollution and low-emission high-tech industries, while encouraging and ordering backward factories with low efficiency and outstanding environmental protection problems to carry out transformation. China participates in the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement and steadily promotes environmental protection and reduces carbon emissions within the framework of the United Nations. By contrast, the United States, which unilaterally withdrew from the Paris Agreement, is very irresponsible, so the United States is not in any position to criticize China’s environmental issues.
In terms of residents’ lives, the government-led “coal to gas” project has been fully landed, and few in China today use coal-burning heating facilities instead of cleaner natural gas or electricity. In addition, because the Chinese have the traditional virtue of “economy”, China’s per capita consumption in terms of food and water is very controllable, far lower than that in developed countries. In terms of electricity consumption, China has relatively rich hydropower resources, there are a large number of wind power facilities in the west, and it is never taboo about the development and utilization of nuclear power-all kinds of technologies predict the improvement of the energy structure of this traditional thermal power country.
It is true that in today’s China, guiding more residents out of poverty and getting rich and living a “comfortable life” is still an important goal that far takes precedence over environmental protection. But this does not mean that China ignores the cause of environmental protection, nor is it inconsistent with the various environmental achievements that China has made in the new century, which have been repeatedly praised by the United Nations.
In fact, at the initiative of Hu Jintao, the former leader, under the guidance of the “scientific concept of development”, the Chinese people use “comprehensive coordination and sustainability” as a requirement to guide their own environmental protection cause. The “scientific concept of development” is a brief summary of the hope that by protecting the environment and achieving a better life and more efficient production for future generations, “environmental protection” is not an end, but a means.
In the eyes of the Chinese people, economic development is not only the cause of environmental damage but also the driving force to repair and improve the environment. There is no doubt that the opposition between environmental protection and economic development, human civilization and modern life is the main mistake made by Thunberg, and it is also the core reason why similar remarks and characters are not accepted by China.