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China in Spotlight




                                         SUSTAINING GROWTH IN CHINA
Analyzing China’s growing economic strength and how it can be sustained without increasing, and even while reducing, environmental damage

Karen Tang
Executive Director
Better Hong Kong Foundation
Jim Zhang
Managing Director
Nature Conservancy
Jeffrey Chen
NeoPac Lighting Group
Ms Karen Tang was appointed as the Executive Director of the Better Hong Kong Foundation in 2006 . She is a veteran in media management and worked as senior management in print (Ming Pao,Yazhou Zhoukan),electronics (Chinese Television Network) and multimedia (Hongkong Telecom IMS , Hutchion Whampoa Group). Jim Zhang joined The Nature Conservancy in 2008 as Managing Director of the North Asia region (comprising China and Mongolia).Before this , Jim had a long career as a pioneer in the Chinese telecommunications industry where he consistently engaged in social and environmental activities Jeffrey Chen recieved his college and postgraduate education at National Central University as a Space Plasma Physics major , and in 1985 he joined Laboratories of Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the most prestigious industrial research and development center in Taiwan.

 “When western nations began developing their economic strength during the Industrial Revolution, the sight of factories belching huge plumes of smoke was a comforting sign to many that goods were being produced, creating jobs for the masses and wealth for the owners.

In the 21st century, however, those similar plumes of industrial exhaust are less attractive, as it is now recognized that they bring, along with industrial growth and jobs, environmental consequences.

And at a time when nations are in a race to acquire energy supplies such as coal and oil, the issue of economic sustainability comes to the fore.

Jeffrey Chen, CEO of NeoPac Lighting, a producer of sustainable LED lighting; Karen Tang, executive director of the Better Hong Kong Federation; and Jim Zhang, managing director of the North Asia Region (China and Mongolia) for The Nature Conservancy, discussed China’s sustainability issues for Asean Affairs. 

Jim Zhang (Left) Managing Director, Nature Conservancy and Karen Tang (3rd from Left) speaking at the Quest for Sustainability session during the Global China Business Meeting 2010 in Luxembourg.

Q: With 1.3 billion people squeezed into a country smaller than the United States, is there any hope at all for sustainability in China?

Jim Zhang feels that pursuing sustainability is the only option for China and the Chinese government. The consumption rate of the average Chinese consumer is lower than that of an average American, noted Karen Tang, and this might help China on the road to sustainability, she believes.

“The ‘Scientific Development Concept’ incorporates a nation’s sustainable development, social welfare, increased democracy and the creation of a harmonious society, and the concept is the socioeconomic ideology of the Chinese government,” according to Jeffrey Chen. However, he noted that the overpopulation issue in China strains land, energy, water and other environmental resources, creating obstacles to sustainability.

Q: A study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency shows that China has already become the predominant source of carbon dioxide, the main global warming emission. What efforts are being made to reduce this?

A:The combined forces of developing nations switching their manufacturing bases to China and China’s economic growth and domestic growth in manufacturing were described by Jeffrey Chen as factors in the growth of carbon emissions in China. He cited the development of solar energy, vehicles using alternative energy sources, smart grids and LED lighting as significant tools to fight carbon emissions. The Nature Conservancy was able to assist the Chinese government on emissions in the forestry sector and was working with local governments in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia to restore forests, Jim Zhang said.

Jeffrey Chen, Chairman/CEO, NeoPac Lighting Group speaking at the Sustainability session.

Q: The desert is sweeping into China’s valleys, choking rivers and consuming precious farm land, and the green walls to stop it do not appear to be working. Is this a coming disaster?

A:Both Jim Zhang and Jeffrey Chen said that in some areas, the “green wall” approach was working, and adopting the right technologies and policies could prevent increased desertification.

Q: The disregard of the environment is one of the major causes of the current severe status of China’s pollution. Is this attitude changing in China?

 Jim Zhang: “China is no different than any other country in the world in this respect, but it is encouraging how quickly the situation is changing. Take me for example. I come from the business world with little previous engagement in the environment and now I am dedicated full time to environmental issues by managing The Nature Conservancy North Asia region. Chinese public awareness and engagement are moving very fast.”

Q: China is moving aggressively on clean energy, outpacing both the U.S. and EU in green investment. Still, while the nation has put in place many environmental laws, these regulations appear to need better implementation and monitoring. Do you agree?

Karen Tang: “China is a big country, and not just environmental laws, but most laws, need close monitoring. However, with the success that China has been demonstrating in the past two decades, once they have the will/target, they can make it.”
Jeffrey Chen: “These are very complex issues. I think that developed countries have more experience and can do something to help China in this regard.” 

Q: Just over 15 percent of China is now protected as natural reserves; logging of natural reserves has been banned since 1998; and the government has pledged to cut CO2 emissions intensity per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. Will these measures work?

Jim Zhang: “Considering China’s determi-nation and quickness on the ground, these measures will very likely succeed. Take the nature reserve system as an example. The more than 2500 nature reserves covering 15 percent of China were established in a very short period of time, mostly over the last three decades.”

Jeffrey Chen: “The Chinese government has strong intentions to reach this goal. Between 1980 and 2000, the average annual growth rate of China’s energy consumption was 4.3 percent and the average growth rate of the gross domestic product (GDP) was 9.6 percent. The energy consumption intensity of GDP during the past 20 years was actually reduced from 3.79 kilograms of coal equivalent/dollar in 1980 to 1.20 kilogram coal equivalent/dollar in 2000.

Q: Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University Distinguished Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, says the Chinese government should enact new policies to stem the growth of households. Is this a practical idea?

Karen Tang: “China is moving to a more open society with higher expectations from its citizens, and the government has to adopt a more relaxed policy on giving birth, especially to ethnic minorities and to those who have a single child in their family.” Both Jim Zhang and Jeffrey Chen think the One Child Policy is on the way out, and Zhang noted that “most of the Chinese economic experts have suggested the government change the policy to stem the rapid growth of the real estate market boom in China.”

Q: An encouraging note is that sustainability reporting is increasing among Chinese corporations and stakeholders in these corporations are paying more attention to these reports. Is that enough?

Jim Zhang: “Paying more attention is not enough! A best practice in every corporation and stakeholder will also be crucial.”

Q: If China hopes to meet the needs of the growing population, it needs to radically alter its current methods of resource management on a large scale. Your view of this statement.

Karen Tang: “We need to think out of the box, and I believe technology, including green energy technology on combating drought or flooding, which helps food grow, will definitely be useful. Also, birth control in China has proved to be very encouraging. I think the population issue in China is more or less contained. As it moves toward modernization and urbanization, population, will, to a certain extent, be more naturally contained.

Q: As is the case in many countries, the flight from rural areas to the cities is occurring in China. Does this pose a risk to effective land management?

Jeffrey Chen: “It is actually an urbanization policy and process in China. By enforcing the policy, the Chinese government intends to get more land from farmers and manage the land more effectively. This is also a land redistribution process.”

Jim Zhang: “As the gap between rich and poor enlarged, and the rural people’s income rose less than the average growth of the urban society, this kind of problem has occurred. China will have no way to keep doing what she has done in the past 30 years. Her economic development model needs a big change. This will be clearly seen in the upcoming Five Year Plan (2011- 2015). A more sustainable policy set is at the gate to come out next year.

(R-L) Wolfgang Lehmacher, Former CEO, GeoPost Intercontinental, Richard Jian Li, Executive Director, Golden Concord Holdings, Hong Kong SAR, S. Roy, Founder & Chairman, AseanAffairs, Thailand, and Xiang Bing, Dean, Cheung Kong GSB, China speaking at the Designing China’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem session during the Global China Business Meeting 2010 in Luxembourg.


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