The Chinese: from Yellow Peril to Green Peril?

On, London-based journalist Daniel Ben-Ami writes a lengthy and provocative essay arguing that the West is creating an image of China as a “green peril” by focusing on the country’s environmental problems and failing to see that the end (economic development) justifies the means (a polluted planet):

The problems that China has with are viewed in an excessively fearful and cautious way. The fact that China’s population is so large, and its economy is growing so fast, makes the anxiety even greater. Instinctively, the reaction is that somehow China should curb its development rather than find bold solutions to its problems. The possibility that China could become a fully industrialised and urbanised society, with living standards akin to those in the West, has become the ultimate environmentalist nightmare. Whereas China under Mao was sometimes called the ‘red peril’, and before that was sometimes referred to by Western racists as the ‘yellow peril’, contemporary China is often viewed as a ‘green peril’.

As a consequence, the impact of is also viewed in a one-sided way. There is an over-emphasis on the problems that it can create, including pollution and inequality. Meanwhile, the immense benefits of growth in China tend to be under-stated. The fact that growth can and does lead to a better life for the mass of the population is virtually forgotten in the popular discussion. And the capacity of a growing, more prosperous society to solve the problems that are thrown up by its growth is also neglected.


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