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From brownh@hartford-hwp.com Wed Jul 30 13:15:48 2003
Newsgroups: soc.culture.china
Subject: Re: Is China’s Growth Sustainable?
From: Haines Brown <brownh@hartford-hwp.com>
Date: 30 Jul 2003 13:15:47 -0400
In-Reply-To: <85ab2228.0307291952.614b58f0@posting.google.com>
Posted-To: soc.culture.china

Is China’s Growth Sustainable?

By Haines Brown, 30 July 2003

SteddieVed@yahoo.com (Xiao Li) writes:
> If China maintains its current economic growth, it’s predicted
> to be the largest economy in the world by 2020. But from an
> ecological point of view, is this sustainable? For that matter,
> India’s economy is also expected go grow rapidly.
> Will these two Asian Giants literally choke the world to death as
> they hit higher and higher income levels?

Why single out China and India? In our rapidly globalizing world, everyone is in this together. We all bear responsibility; we all suffer the consequences of our foolishness. Look at all the damage already done by the existing economic powers. For example, if climate is ceasing to be a homeostatic system, all hell will break loose well before China and India have a chance to develop much further.

There are other issues. The capitalist system appears to need rapid economic growth (whether actually achieved or not), but there are other economic models to consider. So why assume that rapid and uncontrolled economic growth will occur? Another way to put this: Is poverty in the world due to lack of productivity or to mal-distribution?

The world’s economic growth over the last century has brought great wealth to the few, but little gain or even impoverishment for the majority. So, should our aim be economic growth for its own sake, or only the growth necessary for social justice and wellbeing? What’s the point of the economy if not to meet human needs?

In terms of today’s knowledge and technology, it is possible to sustain considerably more economic growth without (for some time anyway) further significant ecological damage. That it is too often not done is because there are no effectively available funds or an insufficient political will. The problem may therefore be a political one having little to do with India and China’s expected economic development.

Besides, the West got super rich through slavery, exploitation and colonialism, particularly in regard to the peoples of Asia and Africa. So isn’t it about time that the great masses or poor people in India and China had their turn? If the only way they can prosper is at the West’s expense (which I do not assume), can we deny that the West may deserve that fate?

There’s a lot more I could say of a theoretical nature: I do believe that economic growth is necessary (although not as rapid as that required by capitalism), and I do believe that the earth cannot sustain it indefinitely (ultimately the problem is dispersion of heat away from the earth). Theoretically (in these thermodynamic terms), the only answer seems a slow constant reduction in population.

In practical terms, I’m very uncertain, but have no doubt that whatever political measures seem required to control ecological outcomes must fully engage the peoples of Asia and Africa. Casting blame in advance is not conducive to the atmosphere needed for such cooperation. The point cannot be to discourage their trying to attain what Westerners already enjoy, partly at their expense, but to seek measures that would reduce the negative ecological consequences of their development.