Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on Chinese Environmentalism


Over at Forbes, Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia explains why China will need to democratize if it wants to consolidate its environmental gains. As she writes:

Thanks to technological advances and rising energy efficiency, China at the turn of this decade had three times better resource utilization than in 1978. This is not to deny that modernization and growth can generate new forms of pollution. But these are less injurious that the old. And as people get wealthier, they invest more in environmental improvements–trees, pollution-control technologies, more expensive but cleaner-burning fuels. It is no coincidence that richer economies are also by and large cleaner–and that as China's economy gets richer it also gets cleaner.

But the problem is that authoritarian governments have a well-known tendency to pursue status and legitimacy through massive public building projects. They build grand monuments, skyscrapers or space programs. China does all of this but has added something new to the annals of autocracy: showy environmental projects. Call it prestige environmentalism. Beijing's remarkable metamorphosis is the clearest example of that.

This kind of environmentalism has major dangers.

Read all about it here.

NEXT: Lots of People Are Mistrusting Your Pretty Paper, Ben

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  1. Autocracies love vanity projects. That is why Democracies always beat Autocracies. Democracies build the small practical things that do the job while autocracies build the big impractical things that feed the autocrats egos. Think of World War II. While Hitler was spending precious resources on the ego driven terror weapons V1 and V2 rockets, the United States was making tens of thousands of boring things like trucks, bulldozers, Higgins boats, liberty ships and Douglas DC 3 airplanes. And the United States buried him with those things.

    1. …and we and the Russians got von Braun and all the rocket technology after the war anyway. Bonus!

    2. Yeah, and think about how much the US saved letting the Russians make a pointless, symbolic trip to the moon.

  2. “Chinese Environmentalism” killed this thread.

  3. Let’s not forget that China was forced to plant gazillions of trees because the central government had screwed the pooch so badly that the Gobi was eating China.

    1. Gobi was eating China.

      The real problem being that the Gobi was always hungry an hour later.


  4. This is such an interesting story at it gives in-depth information to the reader as well. Good thing you have it shared.

  5. This is such an interesting story at it gives in-depth information to the reader as well. Good thing you have it shared.

  6. I haven’t been to China, but I have always heard that it is very clean. They take great pride in keeping it clean and want people to know that they have clean cities. I wish that we would take more pride in our cities.

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