Building a Beautiful China: promoting harmony between humanity and nature

The following text is from a speech delivered by Xi Jinping at a national conference on ecological and environmental protection on 17 July 2023. The English translation was published in Qiushi on 11 March 2024.

President Xi reiterates the Chinese leadership’s firm resolve to build an ecological civilisation based on harmony between humanity and nature, “upholding and acting on the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.” The speech provides a detailed description of China’s environmental strategy in the areas of tackling air, land and water pollution; transitioning industry to a low-carbon development model; continuing to expand the production and consumption of renewable energy; and protecting biodiversity.

The speech makes it clear that the project of protecting the planet and building a Beautiful China is not for the government alone, but relies on the participation of the masses:

We must promote eco-friendly lifestyles. We will encourage simple, moderate, green, low-carbon, sound, and healthy lifestyles and consumption patterns, making eco-friendly transportation, conservation of water, electricity, and food, as well as garbage sorting our people’s daily practice. Party and government organizations at all levels, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions must be at the forefront of these campaigns. We will continue to launch a series of activities under the theme of ‘I’m a Contributor to a Beautiful China’ and encourage industrial parks, enterprises, communities, schools, families, and individuals to actively participate, with a view to building a society in which everyone pursues ecological progress all the time, everywhere, and in everything they do.

This vision – already becoming reality – is profoundly different to the way the ecological crisis is being handled in the West. In the US, Britain and elsewhere, governments make empty promises around renewable energy and carbon efficiency, whilst taking precious little meaningful action. Indeed they maintain fossil fuel subsidies, expand drilling for oil and gas, impose tariffs and sanctions on Chinese solar panels and EVs, and engage in ecologically ruinous military activities. Meanwhile, the capitalist class attempts to shift responsibility away from itself and on to individual consumers, who are expected to reduce their domestic energy consumption, to avoid flying, to recycle, to take shorter showers, to drive electric cars, to eat less meat and so on. The crisis is thereby, in typical neoliberal fashion, individualised, and the capitalist class is absolved of all responsibility and blame.

China is still a developing country, but it has become the clear global leader in environmental protection. It is the world’s first renewable energy superpower, responsible for over half of all wind and solar investment in 2023. The government is not shifting responsibility to individuals, but promoting coordinated action at all levels of government and society. China’s crucial advantage is its political system: the location of political power in the working people led by the CPC. The government’s goals are the masses’ goals, and hence the pursuit of a Beautiful China and the fight against climate breakdown can be prioritised. As such, Chinese socialism is rendering a profound service for all humanity.

The next five years will be crucial to building a Beautiful China. We should thoroughly implement the thinking on promoting ecological progress with Chinese characteristics for a new era, adhere to the people-centered approach, and uphold and act on the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. In our efforts to build a great country and advance national rejuvenation, we will prioritize the Beautiful China Initiative to make notable progress in this regard, and work for substantial improvements in urban and rural living environment. This will enable us to support high-quality development with a high-quality environment.

First, we must intensify the battle against pollution

We must continue to control pollution in a lawful, targeted, and science-based way, and maintain the intensity of our efforts while going deeper and wider in preventing and controlling environmental pollution and improving the quality of the environment.

The blue skies initiative is a priority in the battle against pollution. Focusing on key areas, including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and its surrounding areas, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Fenhe-Weihe River Plain area, we will optimize the industrial structure, the energy mix, and the composition of the transportation sector, strive for synergy between emissions reduction of pollutants such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, and further reduce the concentration of fine particulate matter. We will strengthen efforts to address pollution at its source, use clean energy and centralized heating as alternatives according to local conditions, and further control pollution from bulk coal, coal-fired boilers, and industrial furnaces. We will promote high-standard transformation of the steel, concrete, and coking industries to achieve ultra-low emissions, and continue to cut the discharge of pollutants in key industries. We will strive to bring about a shift in freight transportation from highways to railways and waterways, thus increasing the proportion of railway and waterway transportation in order to reduce energy consumption and pollution from transportation. We will make great efforts to respond to people’s concerns by effectively solving their daily problems and difficulties such as noise, cooking fumes, and stench. We will strengthen coordinated pollution prevention and control across regions and take comprehensive measures to speed up the elimination of serious air pollution and protect our beautiful blue skies.

Continue reading Building a Beautiful China: promoting harmony between humanity and nature

What the US really means by overcapacity

In the article below, prominent Marxist economist and International Manifesto Group convenor Radhika Desai responds to the media hype about China’s putative “overcapacity” in renewable energy production – a story that gathered steam during US energy secretary Janet Yellen’s recent visit to China, in which she accused China of “flooding” the world’s energy markets with cheap green energy.

Radhika starts off with the very reasonable point that, given the number of climate records that were broken in 2023, “one might think everyone would welcome China’s plentiful and cheap clean energy equipment”. China’s unparalleled investment in solar and wind energy have resulted in a dramatic fall in the cost of these technologies worldwide, thereby providing a powerful boost to humanity’s efforts to avoid climate catastrophe.

Furthermore, when it comes to “distorting markets” via subsidies, “the US offers billions in industrial subsidies and talks of reviving industrial policy. Moreover, it denies the simple fact that no country has industrialized without protecting itself, and using myriad forms of state direction, including subsidies.” Indeed China’s subsidies are perfectly consistent with WTO rules.

The article notes that declining conditions of the US working class are caused not by Chinese “overcapacity” but by “pro-corporate and pro-financialization neoliberal US policies” which have “deindustrialized the US, stagnated working class wages and, by shifting income and wealth from the ordinary people towards a tiny elite, generated vast inequality”.

Radhika concludes by observing that, as a socialist government committed to the welfare of its people, China “will not roll over and play dead when asked to harm its own economy, its own workers and the possibility of dealing with climate change, all only so that the interests of unproductive inefficient and financialized US corporations may be advanced”.

This article first appeared on CGTN.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was recently in China to talk about its “clean energy overcapacity.” What can that possibly mean? At a time when the world needs more and cheaper clean energy equipment to deal with climate change, isn’t China helping the world by making this equipment more widely available at prices more of the world can afford? Surely, that is just what the world needs in 2024.

After all, 2023 broke so many climate records. It was the warmest year on record. There were record-breaking forest fires and floods. It was the hottest northern hemisphere summer. July 2023 was the hottest month on record. Considering these facts, one might think everyone would welcome China’s plentiful and cheap clean energy equipment.

Evidently, not. The U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen accused China of flooding the world with cheap clean energy exports, distorting global markets and harming workers. What explains this perversity?

The crux of the problem is the U.S.’s stance on climate change. It would be understandable if it supported solutions that were beneficial to it and its people. However, not only does the U.S. seek benefits not for its people but its corporations, it seeks solutions that not only benefit them but also put them in a dominant position.

Yellen kicked off her campaign against Chinese overcapacity at a solar energy plant in Georgia just days before she set foot in Beijing. She alleged that China had previously inflicted overcapacity in steel and aluminium and was now doing this in the clean energy sector, particular in solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles. “China’s overcapacity distorts global prices and production patterns and hurts American firms and workers,” she stated.

Capacity can only be excessive in relation to demand. When the problem is labelled overcapacity the ‘solution’ is to cut (other nations’) capacity. One could always see it as a problem of restricted demand, to be solved by expanding it. U.S. elites have long approached the crisis of the 1970s as one of over-capacity and sought to deal with the problem by restricting or even reducing industrial capacity in its rivals. It did this to Japan starting in the 1990s. It is currently doing this to Europe, forcing it to deindustrialize, allegedly in order to fight the hyped-up danger that Russia poses. And now, Yellen has brought this effort to China.

If China’s industrial capacity is deemed excessive, it must be restricted so that, when such equipment becomes scarce, U.S. products of lesser quality and higher cost will find markets. It also amounts to saying that the U.S. absolutely does not wish to increase the rest of the world’s capacity to demand more by increasing development and therefore demand there.

In speaking of China distorting markets, Yellen is saying that China captures markets through subsidies. This is, of course, particularly rich when the U.S. offers billions in industrial subsidies and talks of reviving industrial policy. Moreover, it denies the simple fact that no country has industrialized without protecting itself, and using myriad forms of state direction, including subsidies. This understanding defined the terms on which China entered the World Trade Organization in 2000. The U.S. was willing to grant these terms only because it assumed that China would be no more successful than other developing countries in using such provisions to industrialize and become a technological leader. It was wrong.

Finally, Yellen speaks of China harming U.S. workers. The sad, even macabre, reality is that U.S. workers have been harmed over all these neoliberal decades not by China but by the pro-corporate and pro-financialization neoliberal U.S. policies. They have deindustrialized the U.S., stagnated working class wages and, by shifting income and wealth from the ordinary people towards a tiny elite, generating vast inequality.

Sadly, for Yellen, China is neither Japan nor Europe but a socialist economy whose government is oriented towards advancing egalitarian development for its people. Yellen will find it willing to cooperate for the benefit of people and the planet. But it will not roll over and play dead when asked to harm its own economy, its own workers and the possibility of dealing with climate change, all only so that the interests of unproductive inefficient and financialized U.S. corporations may be advanced.

China and the struggle for peace

The following text is based on presentations given by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez at Morning Star Readers and Supporters meetings in Manchester (19 February), Leeds (13 March) and Brighton 24 March), on the subject of China’s global strategy.

Carlos responds to the assertion by Western politicians and media that China is an aggressive and expansionist power, comparing China’s foreign policy record with that of the United States. He shows that China’s foreign policy is based on the principles of peace, development and win-win cooperation, and explains how this approach is rooted in China’s history and ideology, and is consistent with China’s overall strategic goals.

Carlos also takes note of China’s contribution to the global struggle for multipolarity and to the project of global development. He highlights the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s role in the struggle against climate catastrophe.

The text concludes:

On questions of peace, of development, of protecting the planet, China is on the right side of history. It’s a force for good. As socialists, as progressives, as anti-war activists, as anti-imperialists, we should consider China to be on our side… Those of us who seek a sustainable future of peace and prosperity, of friendship and cooperation between peoples, have a responsibility to oppose this New Cold War, to oppose containment and encirclement, to demand peace, to promote cooperation with China, to promote understanding of China, to build people-to-people links with China, and to make this a significant stream of a powerful mass anti-war movement that our governments can’t ignore.

The Manchester event was also addressed by Jenny Clegg; the Leeds event by Kevan Nelson; and the Brighton event by Keith Bennett.

I’m going to focus my remarks on China’s international relations and its global strategy. This is a subject about which there’s a great deal of misunderstanding and obfuscation, particularly in the context of an escalating New Cold War that’s being led by Washington and that the British ruling class is only too happy to go along with.

The mainstream media is full of hysteria about China’s “aggression” or “assertiveness”. When China reiterates its position on Taiwan – a position which in fact has not meaningfully changed in the last seven decades, and which is completely in line with international law – it’s accused of ramping up the threat of war.

When China refuses to go along with the US’s illegal, unilateral sanctions (for example on Russia, Iran, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Eritrea and Zimbabwe), it’s accused of “subverting the international rules-based order”.

When China establishes bilateral relations and trade agreements with Solomon Islands, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nauru, it’s accused of engaging in colonial domination.

When Chinese companies invest in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, they’re accused of imposing debt traps.

And unfortunately much of the left takes a fairly similar position to the ruling class on these issues, considering that China’s an imperialist power, that it’s engaged in a project of expansionism.

This sort of analysis on the left leads inexorably to a position of “Neither Washington Nor Beijing”, putting an equals sign between the US and China; putting China in the same category as the imperialist powers. According to this analysis, the basic dynamic of global politics is today that of inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China.

And of course if that’s the case, if China’s just another imperialist power, and its only interest is growing its own profit margins and competing with the US, Britain, the EU, Canada and Japan for control of the world’s resources, labour, land and markets, it goes without saying that the global working class and oppressed – the vast majority of the population of the world – cannot possibly consider China to be a strategic ally in the pursuit of a better, fairer, more peaceful, more equal, more prosperous, more sustainable world.

China’s view of international relations

How does China consider its role in the world? What does the Communist Party of China propose regarding China’s foreign relations?

What the Chinese leadership calls for is “building a global community of shared future, with the goal of creating an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.”

China consistently expresses its commitment to multipolarity; to peace; to maximum and mutually beneficial cooperation around economic development and tackling climate change, pandemics, and the threat of nuclear war; to working within the context of the UN Charter and international law in support of peaceful coexistence.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at his recent Meet the Press session, talked of China “advocating vigorously for peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit”, and urged that “countries should rise above their differences in history, culture, geography and system, and work together to protect the Earth, the only inhabitable planet for us all, and make it a better place.”

Xi Jinping often talks about China’s orientation towards peace: “Without peace, nothing is possible. Maintaining peace is our greatest common interest and the most cherished aspiration of people of all countries.”

All of this is of course a pretty beautiful and compelling vision. But to what extent does it line up with reality? To what extent is China actually working towards peace, development and sustainability? To what extent does China diverge from the model of international relations pursued by the US and its imperialist allies?

Continue reading China and the struggle for peace

Martin Jacques: China will reach climate goal while West falls short

In this concise opinion piece for the Global Times, Martin Jacques discusses the extraordinary progress made by China in recent years in green technology, in particular solar photovoltaics, wind energy and electric vehicles.

China is already “by far the biggest producer of green tech”, and the gap is widening. As such, “it looks as if China’s voice on global warming will carry an authority that no other nation will be able to compete with.”

Martin observes that China is becoming a major exporter of green technology, and that its investment and innovation has driven an unprecedented decrease in prices globally, most notably for renewable energy. “China’s dramatic breakthrough in new green technologies is offering hope not just to China, but to the whole world, because China will increasingly be able to supply both the developed and developing world with the green technology needed to meet their global targets.”

This should of course be a boon for the green transition in the West, but the author points out the contradiction between the goals of saving the planet and pursuing a New Cold War against China: “How can the West become dependent on China for the supply of these crucial elements of a carbon-free economy when it is seeking to de-risk (EU) or decouple (US) its supply chains from China?”

Martin describes the West’s protectionist response to China’s green tech as “a petty and narrow-minded response to the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced”, and urges politicians to cooperate with China on ecological issues and to embrace its contribution to the shared global project of protecting the planet.

Martin Jacques is a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, and the author of the best-selling book “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order.”

There has been constant low-level sniping in the West against China’s record on climate change, in particular its expansion of coal mining, and its target of 2060 rather than 2050 for carbon zero. I have viewed this with mild if irritated amusement, because when it comes to results, then China, we can be sure, will deliver and most Western countries will fall short, probably well short. It is now becoming clear, however, that we will not have to wait much longer to judge their relative performances. The answer is already near at hand. 

We now know that in 2023 China’s share of renewable energy capacity reached about 50 percent of its total energy capacity. China is on track to shatter its target of installing 1200GW of solar and wind energy capacity by 2030, five years ahead of schedule. And international experts are forecasting that China’s target of reaching peak CO2 emissions by 2030 will probably be achieved ahead of schedule, perhaps even by a matter of years. 

Hitherto, China has advisedly spoken with a quiet voice about its climate targets, sensitive to the fact that it has become by far the world’s largest CO2 emitter and aware that its own targets constituted a huge challenge. Now, however, it looks as if China’s voice on global warming will carry an authority that no other nation will be able to compete with.

There is another angle to this. China is by far the biggest producer of green tech, notably EVs, and renewable energy, namely solar photovoltaics and wind energy. Increasingly China will be able to export these at steadily reducing prices to the rest of the world. The process has already begun. It leaves the West with what it already sees as a tricky problem. How can it become dependent on China for the supply of these crucial elements of a carbon-free economy when it is seeking to de-risk (EU) or decouple (US) its supply chains from China? 

Climate change poses the greatest risk to humanity of all the issues we face today. There are growing fears that the 1.5-degree Celsius target for global warming will not be met. 2023 was the hottest year ever recorded. Few people are now unaware of the grave threat global warming poses to humanity. This requires the whole world to make common cause and accept this as our overarching priority. 

Alas, the EU is already talking about introducing tariffs to make Chinese EVs more expensive. And it is making the same kind of noises about Chinese solar panels. The problem is this. Whether Europe likes it or not, it needs a plentiful supply of Chinese EVs and solar panels if it is to reduce its carbon emissions at the speed that the climate crisis requires. According to the International Energy Authority, China “deployed as much solar capacity last year as the entire world did in 2022 and is expected to add nearly four times more than the EU and five times more than the US from 2023-28.” The IEA adds, “two-thirds of global wind manufacturing expansion planned for 2025 will occur in China, primarily for its domestic market.” In other words, willy-nilly, the West desperately needs China’s green tech products.

Knee-jerk protectionism demeans Europe; it is a petty and narrow-minded response to the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Instead of seeking to resist or obstruct Chinese green imports, it should cooperate with China and eagerly embrace its products. As a recent Financial Times editorial stated: “Beijing’s green advances should be seen as positive for China, and for the world.”

The climate crisis is now in the process of transforming the global political debate. Hitherto it seemed relatively disconnected. That period is coming to an end. China’s dramatic breakthrough in new green technologies is offering hope not just to China, but to the whole world, because China will increasingly be able to supply both the developed and developing world with the green technology needed to meet their global targets. Or, to put it another way, it looks very much as if China’s economic and technological prowess will play a crucial role in the global fight against climate change. 

We should not be under any illusion about the kind of challenge humanity faces. We are now required to change the source of energy that powers our societies and economies. This is not new. It has happened before. But previously it was always a consequence of scientific and technological discoveries. Never before has humanity been required to make a conscious decision that, to ensure its own survival, it must adopt new sources of energy. 

Such an unprecedented challenge will fundamentally transform our economies, societies, cultures, technologies, and the way we live our lives. It will also change the nature of geopolitics. The latter will operate according to a different paradigm, different choices, and different priorities. The process may have barely started, but it is beginning with a vengeance. Can the world rise to the challenge, or will it prioritize petty bickering over the vision needed to save humanity? On the front line, mundane as it might sound, are EVs, wind power, and solar photovoltaics.

Marxian Ecology, East and West: Joseph Needham and a non-Eurocentric view of the origins of China’s ecological civilisation

We are pleased to reproduce the below article by John Bellamy Foster, editor of the prestigious socialist journal, Monthly Review, who is also professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, concerning the contributions of the late Dr. Joseph Needham (1900-1995) to the understanding of the deep roots of China’s views on an ecological civilisation in particular and the dialectical nature of much of traditional Chinese philosophy and culture more generally. The article is especially important in that, whilst the contribution of Needham, who, at the time of his death was described by Britain’s Independent newspaper as “possibly the greatest scholar since Erasmus”, to the understanding of science and civilisation in China, the title of his monumental, multi-volume, lifelong work, remains known in some relevant academic circles, for example through the work of the Needham Research Institute, and somewhat more generally through a popular biography by Simon Winchester, his lifelong Marxism, and his significant contributions to Marxist theory, have been all but forgotten.

Bellamy Foster begins by posing the question as to why the most developed version of ecological Marxism is to be found today in China and argues:

“The answer is that there is a much more complex dialectical relation between East and West with respect to materialist dialectics and critical ecology than has been generally supposed, one that stretches back over millennia.”

He further explains that:

“Materialist and dialectical conceptions of nature and history do not start with Karl Marx. The roots of ‘organic naturalism’ and ‘scientific humanism,’ according to the great British Marxist scientist and Sinologist Joseph Needham (李約瑟), author of Science and Civilisation in China, can be traced to the sixth to third centuries BCE both in ancient Greece, beginning with the pre-Socratics and extending to the Hellenistic philosophers, and in ancient China, with the emergence of Daoist and Confucian philosophers during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.”

In ‘Within the Four Seas: The Dialogue of East and West’, a 1969 book by Needham, the author noted “the absolute alacrity with which ‘dialectical materialism’ was taken up in China during the Chinese Revolution… The Marxian materialist dialectic, with its deep-seated ecological critique rooted in ancient Epicurean materialism, was in Needham’s view, so closely akin to Chinese Daoist and Confucian philosophies as to create a strong acceptance of Marxian philosophical views in China, particularly since China’s own perennial philosophy was in this roundabout way integrated with modern science. If Daoism was a naturalist philosophy, Confucianism was associated, Needham wrote, with ‘a passion for social justice.'”

Bellamy Foster further notes that: “The Needham thesis, as presented here, can also throw light on the spurious proposition, recently put forward by cultural theorist Jeremy Lent, author of The Patterning Instinct, that the Chinese conception of ecological civilisation is derived entirely from China’s own traditional philosophy, rather than being influenced by Marxism. Lent’s argument fails to acknowledge that ecological civilisation as a critical category was first introduced by Marxist environmentalists in the Soviet Union in its closing decades, and immediately adopted by Chinese thinkers, who were to develop it more fully.”

He acknowledges that, “of course, the Needham thesis may seem obscure at first from the usual standpoint of the Western left”, one reason being a “deep Eurocentrism characteristic of contemporary Marxism in the West, associated with the systematic downplaying of colonialism and imperialism.”

But, also citing the work of the late Egyptian Marxist Samir Amin, Bellamy Foster quotes Needham as explaining that “the basic fallacy of Europocentrism is therefore the tacit assumption that because modern science and technology, which grew up indeed in post-Renaissance Europe, are universal, everything else European is universal also.” However, Bellamy Foster continues:

“Marxist thought and socialism in general have always been radically opposed to Eurocentrism, understood as the ideology of Western colonialism. This is as true of Marx and Frederick Engels, particularly in their later years, as it was of V.I. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg. In the twentieth century, moreover, the impetus for revolution shifted to the Global South and its struggle against imperialism, generating in the process new Marxist analyses in the works of figures as distinct as Mao Zedong, Amílcar Cabral, and Che Guevara, all of whom insisted on the need for a world revolution.”

Whilst it is possible to point to traces of European ethnocentrism in some of Marx’s early work, Bellamy Foster notes that, by the late 1850s, he had “become increasingly focused on the critique of colonialism, actively supporting anti-colonial rebellions, and progressively more concerned with analysing the material and cultural conditions of non-Western societies.” This was “further facilitated by the ‘revolution in ethnological time’ with the discovery of prehistory and the rise of anthropological studies, occurring in tandem with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.” In this regard, Bellamy Foster draws a line of demarcation with the recent influential work, ‘Marx in the Anthropocene‘ by the Japanese Marxist Kohei Saito.

Bellamy Foster draws out the connection between Needham’s pioneering work and Xi Jinping’s thoughts on this issue, citing Chinese scholar Huang Chengliang explaining that “the theoretical origins of Xi Jinping’s thought on Ecological Civilisation can be traced to five sources: (1) Marxist philosophy, integrating “the three fundamental theories of ‘dialectics of history, dialectical materialism and dialectics of nature’”; (2) traditional Chinese ecological wisdom on “[human]-nature unity and the law of nature”; (3) the actual historical context of ecological governance in China in response to the ecological crisis; (4) struggles to develop a progressive and ecological model of sustainable development; and (5) the articulation of ecological civilisation as the governing principle of the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

He concludes:

“In Xi’s analysis, the traditional Chinese emphasis on the harmony of humanity and nature, or the view that ‘the human and heaven are united in one,’ is wedded to Marxian ecological views with a seamlessness that can only be explained in terms of Needham’s thesis of the correlative development of organic materialism in both the East and West, with Marxism as the connecting link. From this perspective, the Chinese notion of ecological civilisation, due to its overall theoretical coherence and coupled with China’s rise in general, is likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the development of ecological Marxism worldwide. As Needham wrote: ‘China has in her time learnt much from the rest of the world; now perhaps it is time for the nations and the continents to learn again from her.’”

This article, first published in Monthly Review, is based on a talk presented online to the School of Marxism, Shandong University, in Jinan, in March 2023 and was revised and expanded from an original published version, printed in International Critical Thought, a journal of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Ecological materialism, of which ecological Marxism is the most developed version, is often seen as having its origins exclusively within Western thought. But if that is so, how do we explain the fact that ecological Marxism has been embraced as readily (or indeed, more readily) in the East as in the West, leaping over cultural, historical, and linguistic barriers and leading to the current concept of ecological civilization in China? The answer is that there is a much more complex dialectical relation between East and West with respect to materialist dialectics and critical ecology than has been generally supposed, one that stretches back over millennia.

Materialist and dialectical conceptions of nature and history do not start with Karl Marx. The roots of “organic naturalism” and “scientific humanism,” according to the great British Marxist scientist and Sinologist Joseph Needham (李約瑟), author of Science and Civilization in China, can be traced to the sixth to third centuries BCE both in ancient Greece, beginning with the pre-Socratics and extending to the Hellenistic philosophers, and in ancient China, with the emergence of Daoist and Confucian philosophers during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.1 As Samir Amin indicated in his Eurocentrism, the “philosophy of nature [as opposed to metaphysics] is essentially materialist” and constituted a “key breakthrough” in tributary modes of production, both East and West, beginning in the fifth century BCE.2

In Within the Four Seas: The Dialogue of East and West in 1969, Needham noted the absolute alacrity with which “dialectical materialism” was taken up in China during the Chinese Revolution and how this was treated as a great mystery in the West. Nevertheless, the sense of mystery, he contended, did not extend in the same way to the East itself. He wrote: “I can almost imagine Chinese scholars,” confronted with Marxian materialist dialectics, “saying to themselves ‘How astonishing: this is very like our own philosophia perennis integrated with modern science at last come home to us.’”3 The Marxian materialist dialectic, with its deep-seated ecological critique rooted in ancient Epicurean materialism, was in Needham’s view, so closely akin to Chinese Daoist and Confucian philosophies as to create a strong acceptance of Marxian philosophical views in China, particularly since China’s own perennial philosophy was in this roundabout way integrated with modern science. If Daoism was a naturalist philosophy, Confucianism was associated, Needham wrote, with “a passion for social justice.”4

The Needham convergence thesis—or simply the Needham thesis, as I am calling it here—was thus that Marxist materialist dialectics had a special affinity with Chinese organic naturalism as represented especially by Daoism, which was similar to the ancient Epicureanism that lay at the foundations of Marx’s own materialist conception of nature. Like other Marxist scientists and cultural figures associated with what has been called the “second foundation of Marxism,” centered in Britain in the mid-twentieth century, Needham saw Epicureanism as providing many of the initial theoretical principles on which Marxism, as a critical-materialist philosophy, was based.5 It was the similar evolution of organic materialism East and West—but which, in the case of Marxism, was integrated with modern science—that explained dialectical materialism’s profound impact in China.6

Continue reading Marxian Ecology, East and West: Joseph Needham and a non-Eurocentric view of the origins of China’s ecological civilisation

Chinese modernisation is the modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature

In the following article, which was originally published in the English language July/August 2023 edition of Qiushi, the theoretical journal of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Wang Guanghua, the Minister and Secretary of the CPC Leadership Group of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources, introduces the thesis put forward at the CPC’s 20th National Congress regarding “the need to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts via a Chinese path to modernisation and pointing out that Chinese modernisation is the modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature.”

Noting that “Marxism states that ‘man lives on nature’ and humanity lives, produces, and develops by continuously interacting with nature,” Wang argues that: “President Xi’s innovation explains the interdependence between humans and the natural world, as well as their mutually reinforcing dialectical unity, and it is a succinct expression of contemporary Marxism in China as well as 21st century Marxism in the area of ecological conservation. The ecological wisdom embodied in China’s traditional culture constitutes the national soil and cultural roots of the theory of harmony between humanity and nature in Chinese modernisation.” Xi Jinping, he continues, has “integrated the essence of Marxist thought with the best of China’s traditional culture and with the common values that our people intuitively apply in their everyday lives, thus infusing modernisation theory with distinctive Chinese features.”

The CPC has led the Chinese people in exploring how to achieve the country’s modernisation since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. This has included, “theoretical and practical investigations of how to approach the relationship between humanity and nature. Mao Zedong pointed out that the CPC’s task is to focus on building modernised industry, agriculture, science and culture, and national defence. He also called for conservation of mountains and rivers as well as afforestation.”

After detailing a number of the practical steps that China has taken, Wang continues:

“China has an enormous population that exceeds the total population of the world’s developed countries. Nevertheless, our per capita resources and factors of production are below the global average levels, and we have limited and unevenly distributed land suitable for living and working as well as a lack of focus on ecological protection and restoration in the past. We also face new challenges, such as global climate change and frequent extreme weather events. Our population has peaked, and we are experiencing population aging, declining fertility, and varying regional trends of population growth and decline, all of which are having a profound impact on our management of territorial space. We must improve our awareness of the issues we face and approach problems, make decisions, and act based on our national conditions. We must fully consider resource and environmental carrying capacities and endowments and keep developing new thinking, new approaches, and new ways to effectively resolve problems.”

And he draws a clear line of demarcation with the modernisation paradigm followed under capitalism:

“In the modern era, the modernisation of Western countries has largely been at the expense of resources and the environment. In addition to creating substantial material wealth, it has led to issues including environmental pollution and resource depletion, which have created tension between humans and the natural environment and seen nature take merciless revenge at times. To promote modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature, we must strive to avoid the environmental issues that have arisen in the course of Western capitalist modernisation and renounce the old approach of ‘pollute first, clean up later.’ We must stay committed to green, low-carbon development and adhere to the basic requirement of pursuing protection amidst development and development amidst protection. We must also allocate resources equitably and rationally within and between generations, so that the present generation and those to come can enjoy abundant material wealth while also being able to enjoy stars in the night sky, lush mountains, and fresh flowers.”

“The fundamental objective of the modernisation of the harmony between humanity and nature,” the Minister insists, “is to serve and benefit the people.”

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in October 2022 expounded the theory of Chinese modernization, emphasizing the need to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts via a Chinese path to modernization and pointing out that Chinese modernization is the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature. The congress also stressed the need to uphold and act on the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets and to maintain harmony between humanity and nature when planning development. This represents an important innovation in modernization theory, the latest theoretical innovation of Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Conservation, and a practical requirement for advancing ecological conservation.

I. The logic of the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature

Since its 18th National Congress, the CPC has built on existing foundations to make innovative breakthroughs in theory and practice that have successfully advanced and expanded Chinese modernization. 

From a theoretical perspective, the theory of harmony between humanity and nature in Chinese modernization is the crystallization of the wisdom of Marxism adapted to the Chinese context and the needs of our times 

The cornerstone of this theory is Marxist thought on the relationship between humanity and nature. Marxism states that “man lives on nature” and humanity lives, produces, and develops by continuously interacting with nature. Chinese President Xi Jinping inherited and developed this Marxist thought, which he has combined with the specific realities of ecological conservation in China to propose the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature. President Xi’s innovation explains the interdependence between humans and the natural world, as well as their mutually reinforcing dialectical unity, and it is a succinct expression of contemporary Marxism in China as well as 21st century Marxism in the area of ecological conservation. The ecological wisdom embodied in China’s traditional culture constitutes the national soil and cultural roots of the theory of harmony between humanity and nature in Chinese modernization. Always respecting and loving nature, the Chinese people have cultivated rich ecological elements in the culture during more than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. President Xi has developed philosophical concepts from traditional Chinese culture, such as the unity of humanity and nature and “The Dao follows what is natural,” and integrated the essence of Marxist thought with the best of China’s traditional culture and with the common values that our people intuitively apply in their everyday lives, thus infusing modernization theory with distinctive Chinese features and adding original contemporary elements to traditional Chinese culture.

Continue reading Chinese modernisation is the modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature

The West is not living up to its responsibilities on climate change

The following article by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez – a slightly expanded version of an opinion piece written for the Global Times – discusses the controversies and difficulties setting up the loss and damage fund agreed at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP27).

Noting that the fund is an application of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), which principle lies at the core of international environmental law, the article points out that the rich countries have consistently failed to meet their clear legal and moral responsibility to provide the technology and finance to ensure the Global South can continue to develop, industrialise and modernise without causing significant environmental harm. The best-known example of this is the rich nations’ failure to meet their commitment, made in 2009, to channel $100 billion per year to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy systems.

The imperialist powers have developed the bad habit of blaming China for everything that goes wrong. In terms of environmental questions, Western politicians and journalists deflect criticism of their own slow progress on green energy by essentially assigning China culpability for the climate crisis. Carlos points out that, firstly, China is a developing country and thus has different responsibilities under the framework of CBDR; secondly, China has emerged as the pre-eminent force in renewable energy, electric transport, biodiversity protection, afforestation and pollution reduction. Furthermore it’s working with other countries of the Global South on their energy transitions.

The article concludes by calling on the wealthy countries to stop blaming China and to focus instead on meeting their own responsibilities.

The most significant outcome of last year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) was an agreement to set up a “loss and damage” fund to help climate-vulnerable countries pay for the damage caused by the escalating extreme weather events linked to climate change, such as wildfires, heatwaves, desertification, rising sea levels and crop failures. It is widely estimated that the level of funding needed for this purpose will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, warmly applauded this agreement, for which the developing countries – including China – had fought long and hard. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

The fund is an application of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), agreed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Under this principle, the developed countries have a duty to support developing countries in climate change adaptation and mitigation. All countries have a “common responsibility” to save the planet, but they vary in their historical culpability, level of development and availability of resources, and thus have “differentiated responsibilities”.

CBDR lies at the core of international environmental law, and is a key demand of those campaigning for climate justice. It recognises that development is a human right, and that the countries of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia fuelled their own development with coal and oil; they got rich while colonising the atmospheric commons. The US and Europe alone are responsible for just over half the world’s cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since 1850, although representing just 13 percent of the global population.

Therefore the primary moral, historical and legal responsibility is on the developed countries to provide the technology and the finance such that the Global South can continue to develop, industrialise and modernise without causing significant environmental harm.

Unfortunately, in the year since COP27, precious little progress has been made in terms of setting up the loss and damage fund. There have been numerous disagreements about which countries will contribute and which will benefit, and the US and other advanced countries have been firmly resisting the idea that contributions should be mandatory. Meanwhile the developing countries have had to accept the fund being hosted by the World Bank – which is seen as being essentially a policy instrument of the United States.

This is a familiar story. At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the rich nations pledged to channel 100 billion US dollars per year year to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy systems. Respected environmental journalist Jocelyn Timperley wrote that, “compared with the investment required to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, the 100 billion dollar pledge is minuscule”; and yet the promise has never been kept. The US spends upwards of 800 billion dollars a year on its military, but seems to be almost entirely unresponsive to the demands of the Global South for climate justice.

‘Blaming China’ has of course become the go-to option for Western politicians seeking to escape accountability and divert attention from their own failures. Various representatives from the wealthy countries have suggested that China – as the world’s second-largest economy and highest overall emitter of greenhouse gases – should contribute to the loss and damage fund in order for it to be fair and viable. Wopke Hoekstra, EU commissioner for climate action, recently commented: “I’m saying to China and others that have experienced significant economic growth and truly higher wealth than 30 years ago, that with this comes responsibility.”

The notion that China has the same duties as North America and Western Europe means turning the principle of CBDR on its head. China is a developing country, with a per-capita income a quarter of that of the US. It is still undergoing the process of modernisation and industrialisation.

Meanwhile, although it is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, its per capita carbon emissions are half those of the US, in spite of the US having exported the bulk of its emissions via industrial offshoring. Chinese emissions are certainly not caused by luxury consumption like in the West – average household energy consumption in the US and Canada is nine times higher than in China.

Furthermore, according to the World Food Programme, China is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, with up to 200 million people exposed to the effects of droughts and floods.

From the very beginning of the international discussions around managing climate change, China has stood together with, and taken up the cause of, the developing countries. Indeed, China was one of the countries arguing vociferously for the loss and damage fund to be created.

China has nevertheless emerged as a global leader in the struggle against climate breakdown. According to an analysis by Carbon Brief, China’s carbon dioxide emissions are expected to peak next year, six years ahead of schedule. Given China’s extraordinary investment in renewable energy – its current renewable capacity is equivalent to around half the global total, and is rising fast – there’s every likelihood that it will reach its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 or sooner.

Meanwhile China is making a profound contribution to assisting other countries of the Global South with their energy transitions. Nigerian journalist Otiato Opali writes: “From the Sakai photovoltaic power station in the Central African Republic and the Garissa solar plant in Kenya, to the Aysha wind power project in Ethiopia and the Kafue Gorge hydroelectric station in Zambia, China has implemented hundreds of clean energy, green development projects in Africa, supporting the continent’s efforts to tackle climate change.”

While politicians and journalists in the West tend to ignore China’s successes in renewable energy, they loudly decry its construction of new coal plants. However, a recent Telegraph article provided an exception to this rule, noting that the approval of new coal plants “does not mean what many in the West think it means. China is adding one GW of coal power on average as backup for every six GW of new renewable power. The two go hand in hand.” That is, coal plants are being installed to compensate for the intermittency problems of renewable energy, and will therefore be idle for most of the time.

The US, Canada, Britain, the EU and Australia are all making insufficient progress on renewable energy, and are failing to meet their commitment to supporting energy transition in the Global South. By sanctioning Chinese solar materials and imposing tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, they are actively impeding global progress. Their proxy war against Russia in Ukraine has led to a dramatic expansion in the production and transport of fracked shale gas, at tremendous environmental cost.

These countries should stop pointing the finger at China and start taking their own responsibilities seriously. Let us hope we see some evidence of this at COP28.

Xi-Biden summit offers hope for a de-escalation in the New Cold War

On Wednesday 15 November 2023, Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden held what was described in Xinhua as “a positive, comprehensive and constructive summit, charting the course for improving and developing bilateral ties” during a four hour meeting in which “the two heads of state had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on strategic and overarching issues critical to the direction of China-US relations and on major issues affecting world peace and development.”

The summit hopefully represents an important step forward in terms of reducing tensions – tensions which, it must be said, have been generated exclusively by the US side as part of its New Cold War and its strategy of containing and encircling China and suppressing its rise. The Xinhua report cites Friends of Socialist China co-editor Keith Bennett on President Xi’s agreeing to the summit in spite of a long series of US provocations:

“It is a journey of a peacemaker and of a responsible leader and statesman with a sense of great responsibility to his people, the times, history and humanity as a whole.”

Of particular and urgent importance is the agreement signed between the two countries to step up their cooperation on tackling climate change and protecting the environment. The Global Times article we republish below notes that “China and the US agreed to jointly tackle global warming and operationalize a working group focused on areas including energy transition, methane, the circular economy and resource efficiency, low-carbon development and deforestation.”

However, the article correctly warns that “Washington should also take concrete actions and not walk back its own promises on climate cooperation.” At a time when the US is imposing sanctions and tariffs on Chinese renewable energy materials, and when China has emerged as the world’s leading renewable energy power, the US needs to demonstrate its seriousness when it comes to preventing climate breakdown.

We also republish below an interesting article by John Wojcik in People’s World, written shortly before the Xi-Biden summit, summarising the state of US-China relations and detailing how “those relations have been made unstable by continued U.S. attacks on and propaganda against China’s economic and political interests.” Wojcik calls on the US to work urgently and intensively with China on the pressing issues facing all humanity:

“At home in the US, Biden has to do battle with powerful fossil fuel capitalist interests to realize any of his environmental goals. In China, he could have a great friend with whom to cooperate on these matters.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping trying to repair damage done by Biden

People’s World, 15 November 2023

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are meeting near San Francisco Wednesday, a get-together at which Biden claims he hopes to “stabilize” relations with China. He doesn’t mention, of course, that those relations have been made unstable by continued U.S. attacks on and propaganda against China’s economic and political interests.

The Biden administration has consistently tried to dictate to China that it end its friendly relations with Russia and numerous other countries, and it has levied all kinds of sanctions against countries that China deals with and against China itself.

Biden continues to hypocritically express concern about human rights in China even as his administration funds and fuels Israeli-propagated genocide in Gaza.

The two leaders, who are meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Cooperation Forum summit, reportedly haven’t even spoken to one another in over a year. The U.S. hasn’t been silent during that period when it comes to China, though, having used every excuse to mount major propaganda campaigns against the Asian nation.

The two countries, for example, have long surveyed the military and other activities of one another, but the U.S. blew into major proportions the issue of a harmless balloon that had wandered off course over U.S. territory.

The U.S. flies armed airplanes over and near Chinese waters and has, on occasion, almost collided into Chinese planes over the South China Sea.

Also, during the year that the two leaders have not spoken, the U.S. has, without any proof, campaigned against what it says are Chinese intentions to “take over” Taiwan, an island off the coast of China that actually does belong to China—a reality even the U.S. recognizes.

Biden has used as justification for his war against Russia in Ukraine the excuse that “winning” in Ukraine is an essential first step in halting Chinese aggression against Taiwan. There has been, needless to say, no such aggression against Taiwan by China.

At the San Francisco meeting, according to the White House PR people, Biden is seeking to show the world that while the U.S. and China are economic competitors, they are not locked in a major battle for supremacy with global implications.

That flies in the face of reality, though, since his administration and hosts of top U.S. lawmakers constantly identify China as the “main security threat” facing the U.S.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The main security threat facing the U.S. is the threat of fascism and right-wing domestic terror coming from within our own borders.

China, unlike the U.S., is not involved in any military conflict anywhere in the world. It is the U.S., not China, that has 800 military bases scattered all around the world. A good chunk of these U.S. bases encircle China, and U.S. nuclear subs constantly patrol waters off China’s east coast. The Chinese have no such equivalent, so the reasonable question to ask is: “Who is a security threat to whom?”

The U.S., determined to be the world’s top gun, has also sought to control what nations China deals with around the world. The U.S. has tried to force China to end its neutrality in the Ukraine-Russia War, and it has condemned Chinese attempts to offer a peace plan to end that war. There, too, the U.S. backed what has now proven to be the blowing up of the Nordstream Pipeline by Ukraine. Imagine how the U.S. would react if China did anything like this.

The Biden administration also sees China, a big buyer of Iranian oil, as having considerable leverage with Tehran, and despite the economic relations between those two countries, it tries to get China to cut all ties with Iran and join its campaign against that country.

Again, imagine how the U.S. would react if China patrolled U.S. waters with nuclear missile submarines, flew its warplanes over Long Island or San Francisco Bay, and told the U.S. to stop backing the countries responsible for genocide in Gaza and the blowing up of international energy infrastructure.

Even as Biden claims he wants improved relations, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden was “not going to be afraid to confront where confrontation is needed on issues where we don’t see eye to eye.”

Continue reading Xi-Biden summit offers hope for a de-escalation in the New Cold War

Life for Angolans is changing for the better with the support of China

The following article, first published in Global Times, is based on an interview with João Baptista Borges, Angolan Minister of Energy and Water.

Borges, who was attending the Third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, addresses the accusations of “debt trap” that have been leveled against the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He calls such claims “untrue and unfair”, noting that the infrastructure projects China is involved in – related to energy systems, water treatment and more – “have benefited millions of Angolans” and that Angola’s cooperation with China “is very important and strategic for us in terms of the great changes it has brought to our lives… If you ask anybody in Angola, they will tell you that our lives have changed with these supports from China.”

Borges insists that Angola’s participation in the BRI is based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, and that Angola makes its own decisions about what projects to pursue. “China has never imposed any projects on us; each project was selected by us.”

Furthermore, while Angola is a major fossil fuel producer, it is developing ambitious plans to carry out a green transition, and considers that Chinese experience and investment will be crucial in this regard. “We are talking in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars to construct solar power plants and hydro transmission systems in order to eliminate gradually the consumption of fossil fuels. Our priority is really to transform our economy in order to provide not only more power but also clean power to the people at affordable prices.”

The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has generated numerous opportunities for partner countries, including Angola, as noted by João Baptista Borges, the Angolan Minister of Energy and Water, in an exclusive interview with the Global Times, during which he conveyed appreciation for the positive changes that Chinese companies have contributed to his country’s development, notably in sectors including water, energy supply, and green transformation.

The Angolan minister has also refuted the West’s intensified allegations over the so-called “debt trap” issue targeting the initiative, calling it both “untrue and unfair.”

These remarks were made on the sidelines of his visit to China on behalf of Angolan President João Lourenço to attend the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), which was held in Beijing from Tuesday to Wednesday.

China’s increased support for Angola can be traced back to the early 2000s when the country was emerging from a decades-long civil war and was in dire need of extensive rebuilding, the minister said.

At that time, there was a pressing need for rebuilding, and the country had already begun receiving substantial financial support from the Chinese government for various critical infrastructure projects, such as water and energy supplies, Borges explained.

The cooperation with China has later increased substantially, with a range of major projects, including water treatment systems and transmission systems, being built to help secure the energy supply of the country and improve the living standards of local people.

Continue reading Life for Angolans is changing for the better with the support of China

The East is Still Red – and green

In the following book review of Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century, Stefania Fusero provides a detailed summary of the chapter on China’s environmental record (China is building an ecological civilisation), including a discussion of China’s trajectory on ecological issues, its commitment in the last two decades to renewable energy development, its record on afforestation, and its leadership in eco-friendly transport.

Stefania also sums up the book’s position as to why China, of all countries, has emerged as the uncontested world leader in renewable energy and biodiversity protection:

China’s economic development proceeds according to state plans, not market anarchy. As a result, the interests of private profit are subordinate to the needs of society.

Unfortunately, the Western world remains oblivious to China’s advances, on the one hand because of a racist assumption that ‘civilised’ European-origin peoples should be leading the way on such matters, and on the other hand because “China’s successes in this and other areas risk demonstrating the fundamental validity of socialism as a means of promoting human progress”.

This book review was first published in Italian in La Città Futura and has been translated into English by the author.

The East is Still Red can be purchased in paperback and digital formats from Praxis Press.

Carlos Martinez’s book provides us with a wide-ranging overview of 21st century China, but in this article, I am going to focus exclusively on the chapter entitled “China is Building an Ecological Civilisation.” Although ecology is rightfully one of the most debated topics both among policymakers and at a grassroots level, we know hardly anything about the environmental policies pursued by and in the People’s Republic of China. Through Martinez’s book we get an exhaustive and detailed picture of them.

With the proclamation of the PRC on October 1, 1949, China began the long journey of emancipation of its people from poverty and underdevelopment, which would lead it to pull hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty a few years ago.

The economic development of the PRC, just like previously that of Europe, the US and Japan, was mainly based on coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, which until two decades ago made up around 80 percent of China’s energy mix. Faced with the choice between economic development resulting in environmental degradation or underdevelopment with environmental conservation, the Chinese leadership chose development.

“The abundance of cheap fossil fuel energy enabled China to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, whilst simultaneously establishing itself as a global leader in science and technology, thereby building a foundation for the construction of a modern and sustainable socialist society.”

It is thanks to that choice that China, although still a developing country, is no longer poor. At the same time, however, the effects of the industrialisation process have amplified and aggravated China’s natural vulnerability to climate change – it is one of the countries most prone to ecological disasters, with 200 million people exposed to the effects of droughts and floods; with nearly a quarter of the world’s population, China has only 5% of the planet’s water resources and 7% of the arable land.

Environmental issues have therefore become a top priority and the CPC has focused, especially in the last decade, on the transition to a green development model. If in the 1980s they made GDP growth one of their top priorities, at the 19th Congress of the CPC in 2017 Xi Jinping announced that the main contradiction that Chinese society now faces is that between unbalanced and inadequate development and the needs of people for an ever-better life.

Already in 2014 Xi Jinping wrote in The Governance of China: “We must strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection. We will be more conscientious in promoting green, circular, and low-carbon development. We will never again seek economic growth at the expense of the environment.”

If the concepts of growth and development remain a priority on the Chinese leadership’s agenda, “innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive” growth and development opportunities that preserve nature are now being pursued. Such a view shifts the development goal “from maximising growth to maximising net welfare”, in the words of influential Chinese economist Hu Angang.

Continue reading The East is Still Red – and green

John Bellamy Foster on Ecological Marxism

In this extensive interview, John Bellamy Foster, the editor of the long-established and prestigious US-based socialist journal Monthly Review and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Oregon, discusses ecological Marxism, on which topic Bellamy Foster is an acknowledged global expert, with Jia Keqing, a research fellow at the Academy of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Bellamy Foster begins by noting that the term ecological Marxism is widely used in China, but elsewhere the term ecosocialism is more widely used. Ecosocialism, he notes, has a complex history, with a number of its proponents in the 1980s and early 90s coming out of the Marxist and New Left traditions but being highly critical of Karl Marx and the classical Marxist tradition as a whole. “This also involved, in some cases, attempts to wed Marx with other figures, such as Thomas Malthus (falsely viewed as an environmental figure) or Karl Polanyi, who provided a more social-democratic political economy… Much of this was coloured by reactions at the time to the demise of the Soviet Union and attempts to distance ecosocialism from core Marxist traditions.”

However, from the late 1990s, such views began to be challenged by other ecosocialists rooted primarily in the unearthing of Marx’s own ecological critique. Marx, Bellamy Foster notes, “was strongly critical of the Cartesian mechanistic separation of human beings and animals and defended Darwinian evolution, emphasising the human coevolutionary relation to the natural world. He also emphasised the close affinity in terms of intelligence of nonhuman animal species and human beings, and he criticised the brutality toward nonhuman animals that arose within capitalist production… He also indicated that we relate to nature not simply through our production but also sensuously, and through our conceptions of beauty, that is, aesthetically… One of the most brilliant insights of Xi Jinping, in line with both traditional Chinese civilisation and Marxism, was to recognise that the concept of ecological civilisation was not quite enough, and that it needed to be supplemented by a notion of ‘beautiful China’. That is, our aesthetic relation to nature, and thus the intrinsic value of nature, was seen as so important that it needed to be emphasised separately.”

Discussing the relationship between ecological issues and the class struggle, Bellamy Foster traces things back to Friedrich Engels’s 1845 work, The Condition of the Working Class in England: “Engels did not start his analysis with the exploitation of factory workers and conditions in the workplace, though that occupies part of the book, but rather with the capitalist city, housing conditions, air and water pollution, the spread of disease and illnesses of all kinds, and the much higher mortality rate of the working class. In this sense, his work was ecological as much or more than it was economic.

“The struggles of the working class in the early nineteenth century were a product of their whole living conditions, not just factory conditions, even if it was their ability to stop production that was the basis of their class power… For Marx and Engels, working-class struggles were not restricted to strikes and battles by workers within their work sites but were also evident in the entire realm of working-class material existence. Historical materialism has too often been reduced to what we might call historical economism, leaving out wider realms of life.”

Bellamy Foster also incorporates the contradiction between the Global North and the Global South, as well as the complex relationship between working people in the Global North and the Global South, into his analysis, stating:

“If there is a shortage of food or water available to the population in the Global South today, is this due primarily to economic or ecological factors? The fact is that such problems are more and more intertwined given the structural crisis of capital and combined economic and ecological crisis and catastrophe…

“The economic proletariat has often been constrained by the logic of trade unions and the struggle for wages and benefits. The environmental proletariat, which is simply a way of referring to the proletariat in terms of the full complexity of its material existence, is concerned with work relations but also the full range of material life conditions. Such a unified standpoint is necessarily more revolutionary and more capable of grappling with the problems of the age…

“In terms of the question of the more revolutionary character of workers in the Global South, there cannot be the slightest doubt. It is the workers in the periphery of the capitalist system who are faced with the sharp edge of imperialism… Not all of these revolutions have succeeded, of course… Nevertheless, it is the proletariat/peasantry in the Global South that has continually led the way, and where one consequently sees the most radical environmental-proletarian struggles today.”

Bellamy Foster is clear that the historic responsibility for the looming threat of climate catastrophe rests with the imperialist countries and not with China or other countries of the Global South and draws on the work of Jason Hickel, who “demonstrated in an important study in Lancet Planetary Health in September 2020, [that] if we subtract the actual emissions of countries from their fair share, we can then determine which countries have, in their historical emissions, generated excess or surplus emissions. What Hickel was able to determine based on 2014 data was that 40 percent of all excess carbon dioxide emissions in the world added to the atmosphere were attributable to the United States, and 92 percent to the rich nations of the Global North. Meanwhile, China and India both had zero excess emissions. The excess emissions of the countries of the Global North represent an enormous ecological debt in the form of a climate debt to the Global South.”

Jia and Bellamy Foster discuss the ideas advanced by James O’Connor, founding editor of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, regarding capitalist and socialist approaches to development and the ecological crisis. Bellamy Foster notes that: “Socialism arises out of capitalism and thus is inherently infected by many of its contradictions. The world-economy as a whole is capitalist, which means that socialist countries have to navigate their way through all sorts of external contradictions imposed on them, not least of all imperialist pressures. Nevertheless, what differs between countries who are socialist (or postrevolutionary) and capitalist are the social relations of production, which open up all sorts of new opportunities. China, for example, though beset with ecological problems, has been able to develop modes of ecological management and planning that would be unthinkable in the Global North/West.”

Asked what China should emphasise to tackle the ecological crisis and build an ecological civilisation, he responds: “China’s approach to building an ecological civilisation is radically different from anything that exists in the West/Global North. Xi has made it clear that the goal is to alter the whole ‘developmental model and way of life’… This is achieving startling results.”

Tackling the question of the share of coal-fired plants in China’s energy consumption, which has so far dropped from 70% to around 56%, he continues:

“A big factor in China’s continuing reliance on coal has to do with energy security, not simply economics. Coal is the only fossil fuel that China has in abundance. With the United States launching a New Cold War on China during the Donald Trump administration, which has been carried forward and intensified under the Joe Biden administration, energy security has become a bigger issue for China. As Xi put it in a speech in October 2021, China ‘must hold the energy food bowl in its own hands.’ In this respect, Beijing is very conscious of the whole history of imperialism and how Western powers had imposed sanctions on it during the century of Western ‘gunboat’ interventions enforcing unequal treaties, something that only ended with the Chinese Revolution.”

Bellamy Foster does not accept the view that China’s emphasis on ecological civilisation has little to do with ecological Marxism, but is mainly rooted in traditional Chinese culture, “Yet, I also argued that the notion of ecological civilisation was developed in China as part of an ecological Marxism with Chinese characteristics, drawing on China’s own vernacular revolutionary tradition and thus on traditional Chinese culture… My way of thinking about this was very much influenced by the work of the great Marxist scientist and leading Western Sinologist Joseph Needham, the principal author of the massive multivolume Science and Civilisation in China.”

Finally, Bellamy Foster firmly locates his arguments in the context of the New Cold War primarily initiated by the United States against China:

“The United States is currently threatening the People’s Republic of China over Taiwan, which is internationally recognised—by the United States as well—as part of China, but with a different system, in accord with the One China Principle… In the context of declining US economic hegemony, Washington is insisting on a unipolar world, promoting military blocs aimed at China and Russia, and rejecting the actual multipolar development of the world at large, through the development of the BRICS… The US dollar’s role as the international reserve currency is being weaponised to sanction both Russia and China, along with all other nations that have challenged US dominance… The world is therefore on the edge of a Third World War, threatening the very existence of humankind. China’s response has been to launch in 2022 its Global Security Initiative, which constitutes the most comprehensive set of commitments for overall world security, including the security interests of all nations, that has ever been introduced.”

This interview, which is well worth reading in full, was first published in English in the September 2023 edition of Monthly Review. Conducted in English, the interview was also translated into Chinese and published in World Socialism Studies (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) in April 2023.

Jia Keqing: John Bellamy Foster, thank you for taking time for this interview. You are a leading theorist of contemporary ecological Marxism. In recent years, you have published a large number of works on Marxism, especially ecological Marxism. Could you give us an overview of the current state of ecological Marxism research worldwide? For example, what are the representative scholars and representative journals?

John Bellamy Foster: In China, the term ecological Marxism is widely used, but in most discussions outside of Asia the term ecosocialism is more common. I use both terms, along with Marxian ecology. At present ecosocialism is how the actual on-the-ground movement is referred to in the West. Still, the term ecological Marxism is useful at times since not all ecosocialist currents are clearly Marxist. Indeed, some self-styled ecosocialists adopt a more social-democratic approach. Ecosocialism thus has a complex history.

In the 1980s and early ’90s, many of the most prominent ecosocialists, figures like Ted Benton, André Gorz, James O’Connor, and Joel Kovel, came out of the Marxist and New Left traditions but were highly critical of Karl Marx and the classical Marxist tradition as a whole for being what was termed Promethean (standing for an extreme industrialist and extreme productivist position) and for being anti-ecological. The main thrust was thus an eclectic combination of traditional Marxist positions on labor and class with a Green theory that was primarily ethical in nature. This also involved, in some cases, attempts to wed Marx with other figures, such as Thomas Malthus (falsely viewed as an environmental figure) or Karl Polanyi, who provided a more social-democratic political economy, sometimes characterized as more environmental than Marx’s analysis. For Benton, Marx had failed (in contrast to Malthus) to recognize environmental limits. For O’Connor and Joan Martínez-Alier, Marx had rejected ecological economics as presented by the Ukrainian Marxist Sergei Podolinsky—though later research proved this to be incorrect. In the case of Kovel, Marx’s main failure was to deny the intrinsic value of nature. Much of this was colored by reactions at the time to the demise of the Soviet Union and attempts to distance ecosocialism from core Marxist traditions.

Beginning in the late 1990s, these views were challenged by other ecosocialists who developed a tradition of Marxian ecology rooted primarily in the unearthing of Marx’s own ecological critique. At the center of this was Marx’s conceptualization of ecological crisis known as the theory of metabolic rift and the relationship of this to his economic value theory. Paul Burkett and I played a leading role in this reconstruction of classical Marxian ecology in Marx and Frederick Engels—Burkett in his Marx and Nature, me in Marx’s Ecology. Over the last two decades not only has our knowledge of Marx’s ecology expanded enormously, but this has been extended into a critique of contemporary capitalist ecological destruction in the work of such figures as Kohei Saito, Fred Magdoff, Andreas Malm, Brett Clark, Richard York, Ian Angus, Hannah Holleman, Del Weston, Eamonn Slater, Stefano Longo, Rebecca Clausen, Brian Napoletano, Nicolas Graham, Camilla Royle, Mauricio Betancourt, Martin Empson, Jason Hickel, Chris Williams, and a host of others. Ariel Salleh has come up with an analysis of metabolic value that integrates metabolic rift analysis with ecofeminist theory. Jason W. Moore developed a world-ecology approach that grew out of metabolic rift analysis, but eventually gravitated to posthumanism. Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro has written on socialist states and the environment.

Continue reading John Bellamy Foster on Ecological Marxism

Belt and Road: A Ten-Year Celebration and Reflection

In the following op-ed, Erik Solheim – President of the Green Belt and Road Institute and former UN Under-Secretary-General – reflects on the first decade of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Solheim observes that “China has signed more than 200 Belt and Road cooperation agreements with 152 countries and 32 international organizations”, accounting for three-quarters of the world’s population, and practically all developing countries. The BRI has “brought huge benefit to developing countries, lifting millions of people out of extreme poverty.” For that reason, the author considers that the BRI is, without doubt, “the most important international initiative that serves as a global cooperation platform to reshape global development.”

Solheim describes a number of BRI projects around the world which are aiding low-carbon development and connectivity. He cites the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway and the Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway as “shining examples that have helped African connectivity and green transformation.”

The author introduces a series of interesting suggestions for further enhancing green development along the Belt and Road, and concludes by expressing his hope that the BRI’s second decade will be as successful as its first.

This piece was first published on CGTN on 19 September 2023.

In February this year, I had an exciting visit to Bracell in Brazil. It is the most modern and greenest pulp factory in the world, a few hours from the megacity of Sao Paulo. The operations are purely fuelled by renewable energy and forests are used in a sustainable way. It underlines the South-South cooperation in the new global era. Bracell operates fully in Brazil, producing 3 million metric tons of pulp a year and creating about 6,000 jobs for the Brazilians. The mother company is the Indonesian RGE, which set up this factory in Brazil as part of its global product schemes. China has a prominent role to play as well, since the project is funded by Chinese banks and its pulp will primarily supply the Chinese market for paper and tissue. From Brazil to Indonesia and China, Bracell showcases a new global development cooperation landscape, bringing together three of the most important developing nations in the new global economy.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and the Belt and Road Initiative are among the new mechanisms to unlock the potential of such South-South cooperation. And there is no doubt that the Belt and Road is the most important international initiative that serves as a global cooperation platform to reshape global development. Since it was unveiled in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, it has progressed with robust vigor and vitality. This year marks the 10th anniversary and it is right on time to sum up what has been achieved and to look ahead.

Looking back, the first decade of the Belt and Road cooperation has been a resounding success. Its great achievements are generally three-fold.

First, the sheer scale. As of June, China signed more than 200 Belt and Road cooperation agreements with 152 countries and 32 international organizations. Together, they account for about 40% of the world’s economy and 75% of global population. With a handful of exceptions, all developing countries are part of the initiative. And in different countries, the Belt and Road takes on different forms. It is by far the most important investment venture of our time. It has brought huge benefit to developing countries, lifting millions of people out of extreme poverty.

Second, the great contribution of green corridors. The China-Laos Railway has delivered more than 4 million tons of cargo since it was put into operation in 2021, hugely helping landlocked Laos to link to global markets in China and Europe and increase cross-border tourism. Indonesia’s first high-speed train, the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, reached 350 km per hour during the joint commissioning and test phase in June this year, reducing the journey between the two huge cities from over 3 hours to 40 minutes. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway and the Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway are shining examples that have helped African connectivity and green transformation. The green corridors have not only helped facilitate transportation and green mobility in developing countries, but also greatly boosted trade, the tourism industry and social development.

Third, the commitment to green development. In September 2021, President Xi Jinping announced the decision to halt all Chinese overseas coal investment. The move reflected a strong determination to advance green transition and has had a profound effect in driving other developing countries to a green path and high-quality development.  Interestingly it happened at a time when many Belt and Road countries like Kenya, Bangladesh and Pakistan also decided to abandon coal.

Looking ahead, China may need to consider new steps to further green the BRI to ensure its sustainability and continued progress.

First, it is important to designate the BRI as a major vehicle for green investments. China has taken a leading position in nearly all renewable technologies. BYD is now the biggest electric vehicle company in the world. LONGi is the world’s biggest solar enterprise. China Three Gorges Corporation is a global leader in hydropower development and operation. Envision ranks as one of the world’s largest wind turbine companies. CATL has led the way in battery making. These companies have huge interests in and abilities to invest overseas. BYD recently said that it will invest over 620 million US dollars in an industrial complex to make electric cars in Brazil and LONGi has massive investment in Malaysia to produce solar products.

Second, efforts can be made to optimize the green corridors. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway can potentially connect East Africa all the way to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, landlocked countries that have beautiful landscapes and are desperately longing to become attractive tourist destinations, as well as to be linked to ports and thus global markets. Similarly, the Jakarta-Bandung Railway could continue to reach Surabaya, the second-largest city of Indonesia, with fantastic landscapes and historical sights. I am glad to see that China and Indonesia have discussed this potential extension after Premier Li Qiang took a test ride on the bullet train recently. In addition, it is crucial to promote collaboration among countries involved in the Kunming-Singapore Railway Network to complete the project in an efficient manner, so that the countries can benefit from a most advanced transport system, boosting tourism and increasing economic integration. The Kunming-Singapore rail web will have a tremendous impact on the region’s connectivity and prosperity.

Third, the BRI should become a platform dedicated to exchanging investment and best practice for nature protection. President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia in November last year. Saudi Arabia and Iran were invited this August to be new members of the BRICS. The Chinese support to peace has brought a very positive influence on the Middle East. There is huge space for cooperation between China and the Middle East on desert control and water management. The Ninth Kubuqi International Desert Forum opened last month in the city of Ordos, and lots of discussion emphasized that China’s best practice of desert control can be shared with the Middle East. By the same token, presidents of five Central Asian nations met with President Xi Jinping in Xi’an this May at the China-Central Asia Summit, which resulted in an inspiring declaration on environmental cooperation. China’s success in water management and protecting wild animals such as giant pandas, Tibetan antelopes and snow leopards shows the way for nature protection overseas.

Fourth, people-to-people bonds should be enhanced. One serious consequence of the COVID pandemic is the breakdown in the texture of global connectivity. Relationships and connections suffered an unprecedented challenge. The Belt and Road can play a significant role in creating a better global atmosphere and fighting stupid ideas of zero-sum and decoupling. The Belt and Road can serve as a forum to strengthen people-to-people exchanges, bridging cultural gaps and promoting understanding among peoples. I recently worked with Zhejiang Province to set up a tourist office in Europe, which will function as a window into the splendid Song Dynasty as well as the tea and silk culture of this historical province. The forthcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou is another example of bringing people together. Tea and sport are great catalysts to unite people from diverse regions and backgrounds.

The Belt and Road ten-year fruitful journey demonstrates that it is not about unreachable visionary or hollow dreams, but about determination and real action. It has met the inaccessible development hopes of many developing countries and has brought concrete benefits to people and communities. Let’s hope that, over the next decade, the Belt and Road will continue to be a major driver in global green development and bringing people together across continents.

Capitalist urbanization, climate change, and the need for sponge cities

In this fascinating article, first published in Liberation School, environmentalist and author Tina Landis explains the concept of sponge cities: what they are, why they are needed, and China’s leading role in developing them.

Tina observes that “the majority of the world’s cities today were built for profit and speculation in mind, with little to no consideration given to negative impacts on either ecology or humanity.”

“Vast hardscapes—sidewalks, roads, parking lots, buildings—and gray infrastructure that channels water away as it falls, places these urban centers at odds with biodiversity and the natural cycling of water through the landscape. Green spaces that are created within urban environments are often highly managed areas separate from the rest of the city, filled with non-native ornamental plants and thirsty grasses that require intensive irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides, while providing little to no benefit to native species of birds, insects, and others.”

In an era where humanity faces a rising threat of climate breakdown, developing creative solutions to these problems is literally a matter of life and death. China in particular “is taking comprehensive action to address how urban areas impact the environment and how climate impacts are demanding more resilience in urban planning”, aiming to retrofit and create 30 sponge cities by 2030.

These sponge cities are designed to be climate-resilient population centers. “Sponge cities utilize green infrastructure so that surfaces act as a sponge absorbing water. They integrate space for water to collect such as wetlands and bioswales, create vegetative cover and trees throughout including green roofs and vegetation integrated into building structures, and porous pavement and roads so water can infiltrate soil and catchments underneath to be available during dry times.”

Tina notes that renowned Chinese ecologist and landscape architect Kongjian Yu has been the driving force behind the sponge city movement at a global level. His work has won broad support among China’s political leadership.

Sadly, for the moment, China is the only country developing sponge cities on such a vast scale, as a result of its political system. “Only under a socialist planned economy, like that of China, can real solutions to climate change be implemented on a mass scale.”

Introduction

According to the United Nations Population Fund’s 2009 report, 2008 was the first time in history that over 50 percent of the world’s population resided in cities instead of rural areas. Because of the different ways countries define cities, others date the qualitative shift to as recently as 2021 [1]. Regardless, across the spectrum it’s undisputed we now live in an “urban age” and, as such, transforming the relationship between cities and the natural world is essential for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The international capitalist institutions like the World Bank that are increasingly taking up the issue of cities and climate change can’t explain the various factors behind urbanization nor can they pose real solutions to its impact on or relationship to climate catastrophes. Cities consume 78 percent of the world’s energy resources and produce 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2022 UN Habitat report [2]. Under the capitalist model, urban planning lacks a holistic approach, leaving human well being and ecological needs as an afterthought, which will continue to have a degenerative effect on the environment and global climate.

Although Marx and Engels lived during a time in which capitalist urbanization was a nascent phenomenon concentrated mostly in some European cities, like Manchester, the English city about which Friedrich Engels wrote his first and classic book, The Condition of the Working Class in England. Engels demonstrates how the “great town” of Manchester, the first major manufacturing center in England, was great only for capitalist profits. The concentration of capital required for the invention and adoption of machinery outproduced independent handicraft and agricultural production, forcing both into the industrial proletariat of the city. There, they had to work for the capitalists, whose wages were so low they could, if they were lucky, live in overcrowded houses and neighborhoods just outside the city limits. Because the city was produced chaotically for capitalist profits, no attention was given to accompanying environmental impacts [3]. As the masses were driven from their land into the urban factories, the ancestral ties to the land and ecological knowledge of how to live sustainably on that land was lost.

Continue reading Capitalist urbanization, climate change, and the need for sponge cities

Why China is set to significantly overachieve its 2030 climate goals

In this article from Carbon Brief, Swithin Lui – China lead at Climate Action Tracker and climate policy analyst at NewClimate Institute – assesses China’s progress towards its climate targets and the implications for global efforts to tackle climate change.

Analysing the data in detail, he finds that China is on track to significantly overachieve its target of peaking greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; indeed this target will likely be reached in 2025. His analysis shows also that China is on track to achieve a reduction in carbon intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) below 2005 levels of 67 percent by 2030.

Meanwhile, China’s consumption of non-fossil energy is expected to grow by almost 80 percent from 2020-2030. “Our projections show, therefore, China’s share of non-fossil energy comfortably overachieving the 25 percent mark in 2030.”

The author expresses his hope that China will “announce new targets this year to signal its continued leadership in this area and help spark an accelerated international transition.”

China is continuing to build up its domestic fossil fuel production capacity and strengthening its portfolio for energy imports, even as it accelerates renewable power deployment.

Its energy decisions over the next few years will have large implications for its emissions trajectory towards 2030, its pathway towards the 2060 carbon-neutrality goal, and for global warming as a whole.

These recent developments are reflected in our latest Climate Action Tracker assessment of China’s current targets, policies and climate action, published today, which shows its emissions are likely to increase in the short term.

Yet our assessment shows the country is also set to significantly overachieve the targets it promised internationally for 2030, with emissions peaking by 2025. This means that China could increase the ambition of its targets, even without changing the path of its emissions this decade.

On the other hand, we find that this emissions trajectory – and China’s current targets – are incompatible with what would need to happen on a global level to limit warming to 1.5C. If all countries adopted an equivalent level of ambition, we would expect warming to reach 3C.

This article unpacks the details behind our outlook and points to possible ways in which China could take further steps to enhance its commitments towards achievement of global climate targets.

Continue reading Why China is set to significantly overachieve its 2030 climate goals

Release of Fukushima wastewater threatens workers

We reprint below an article by Otis Grotewohl, originally published in Workers World, about the Japanese government’s release of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean.

Otis notes that, while the government in Tokyo has claimed the process is safe, many people are skeptical, including the Japanese opposition parties, fishermen, local residents and environmental campaigners. Greenpeace Japan states that Tokyo’s decision “disregards scientific evidence, violates the human rights of communities in Japan and the Pacific region, and is non-compliant with international maritime law.”

The Chinese government has announced a ban on imports of Japanese seafood in response to the discharge. Japan, in league with the US and other imperialist powers, is now criticizing China for this ban and for spreading disinformation. “Just as the Japanese government and its Western enablers accuse China of ‘disinformation,’ the capitalist rulers of Washington and Tokyo are waging a major public relations campaign to convince people in the region that seafood from the Pacific Ocean will still be safe to consume after the release of wastewater.”

As Otis points out, the Japanese government’s action is a threat to the health and safety of people in the region, and is being carried out solely in accordance with “the material needs and desires of the employing class.” China meanwhile has taken a clear lead on renewable energy and biodiversity, and is advocating for the interests of ordinary people both in China and throughout the region.

“Anyone concerned with the well-being of humanity and our ecosystem should defend China and stand in solidarity with workers in the Asia-Pacific region who are being threatened with a polluted ocean, poisoned water and contaminated seafood.”

The Japanese government began releasing wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 24. The controversial move has angered workers throughout the region, sparking numerous protests in South Korea, China and Japan.

Following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 — which destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulting in three nuclear meltdowns, three hydrogen explosions and a release of radioactive contaminants — the nuclear company Tepco started pumping in water to cool down the reactors’ fuel rods. 

Radioactive wastewater has been added to tanks every day since then, and more than 1,000 tanks have been filled. The government of Tokyo argues the process is “no longer sustainable” to maintain and promises people that “after treatment and dilution the ‘water is safe to release.’” (BBC, Aug. 24) Many people in the area are understandably skeptical.

More than a million metric tonnes of water stored at the nuclear plant is expected to be discharged over the next 30 years, and there are mixed feelings among scientists about this. Among those who are most supportive of Japan’s plan is the United Nations nuclear “watchdog” known as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Many more people oppose the plan, especially environmentalists and workers in the fishing industry who are familiar with the Pacific Ocean.

Continue reading Release of Fukushima wastewater threatens workers

China’s ecological civilization a profound contribution to humanity

In this opinion piece for the Global Times, Carlos Martinez describes the extraordinary progress made by China over the past two decades, emerging as a world leader in renewable energy, electric vehicles, green public transport and biodiversity protection. That China rather than the advanced capitalist countries has made such progress is “a reflection of China’s socialist system, which is structured in such a way that political and economic priorities are determined not by capital’s drive for constant expansion but by the needs and aspirations of the people.”

The West on the other hand, more interested in protecting its global hegemony than preventing climate breakdown, is moving in the opposite direction. The US’s proxy war on Russia has led to a huge increase in US exports of fracked shale gas to Europe; a rise in coal consumption in Europe; and ramped up oil drilling in the North Sea. Meanwhile the US and Britain have both recently announced major new drilling projects. And rather than cooperating with China, these countries impose sanctions on its renewable energy industry.

However, the countries of the Global South are enthusiastically cooperating with China and benefitting from its experience, support and investment. “Environmentalists in the West should draw the appropriate lessons, resolutely reject anti-China hysteria, oppose decoupling, oppose the new cold war, and promote maximum global cooperation to save the planet.”

Tuesday, August 15, marks China’s first National Ecology Day. On August 15, 2005, 18 years ago, Xi Jinping, then Secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), first put forward the concept that green mountains are themselves gold mountains, when he visited Yucun, a village in Zhejiang Province.

At a national conference on ecological and environmental protection in July 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China should support high-quality development with a high-quality ecological environment and promote the modernization featuring the harmonious co-existence between human and nature. 

Over the past decades, China has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a world leader in renewable energy, electric vehicles, green public transport and biodiversity protection.

A BBC News article of June 29 noted that, of the half a trillion US dollars spent worldwide on wind and solar last year, China accounted for 55 percent. China’s solar capacity is now greater than that of the rest of the world combined. Indeed, it can reasonably be considered as the first “renewable energy superpower.”

Around 99 percent of the world’s electric buses are in China, along with 70 percent of the world’s high-speed rail. China is carrying out the largest reforestation project in the world, with forest coverage having doubled from 12 percent in 1980 to 24 percent last year.

And China’s commitment to green development is only deepening. Environmental sustainability is a central theme at all levels of government, and the nation’s ambitious goals to achieve peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060 are actively informing China’s economic strategy.

Continue reading China’s ecological civilization a profound contribution to humanity

The new cold war is being fought at the planet’s expense

The following editorial from the Morning Star addresses recent absurd claims by British politicians and journalists that Chinese electric vehicles are being (or may be) used to spy on Britain. The author points out that this laughable notion is in fact part of “a weird trade protectionism operated on behalf of a foreign government (the United States)”, itself a component of a broader campaign of China containment.

The editorial observes that “major problems facing humanity require international co-operation — and China’s leading position in green technology makes co-operation in this field essential.” Given that China is home to nearly half of all electric vehicles and two-thirds of high-speed rail worldwide, and given that it “installed more renewable energy last year alone than the US has in its whole history”, coordination with China on environmental issues is a matter of urgent and obvious interest to the people of Britain and indeed the rest of the world. And yet the imperialist ruling classes continue to adhere to their Cold War slogan of better dead than red.

THE summer parliamentary recess once meant “silly season” for the newspapers because there was no politics to report.

Today it is politicians themselves publicising nonsense. MPs’ scaremongering that importing electric vehicle technology from China will allow our cars to spy on us is laughable.

The gaggle of ministers and backbenchers running to the Telegraph with their national security concerns do not, of course, suggest that China’s dominant position in the renewables industry says anything positive about it.

China might be home to nearly half of all electric vehicles worldwide, two-thirds of high-speed rail, and have installed more renewable energy last year alone than the United States has done in its whole history. It might account for 60 per cent of wind power manufacturing and 75 per cent of solar.

Anything to learn from this? The advantages of economic planning? Of targeted public investment in strategic sectors?

No, the MPs show no concern with investing in the British renewables sector. Their priority is to keep China out — even if it means ditching green tech.

Rules suggesting car-dealers hit a minimum quota of 22 per cent of sales being of electric vehicles by next year should be scrapped, they say.

Mournfully they hint that perhaps even the plan to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 must be cast aside, in case it proves a Trojan horse for Beijing.

The most reactionary wing of the Conservative Party has scented an opportunity since their Uxbridge by-election victory — assigned by both Tories and Labour to the unpopularity of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ultra-low emissions zone.

The PM quickly painted himself as the champion of motorists. He trumpeted daily reliance on cars by a majority of British households as evidence that cars are fantastic, not that something needs to be done about our public transport system. Advocates of buses, trains or bicycles are ivory-tower dwelling elitists, says a man who criss-crosses England by private jet.

By the end of July the Express was reporting plans of a “major rebellion” by Tories against any phase-out for petrol and diesel cars. Back-bench MP Nick Fletcher calls low-traffic neighbourhoods a “socialist plot” — if electric cars can be depicted as a communist conspiracy, so much the better for Big Oil.

Of course, MPs are not just hyping the China threat to protect fossil fuel interests.

The new cold war is a much wider phenomenon. This is not the first time Britain has shot itself in the foot in order to “decouple” from China: in 2020 the government scrapped its agreement with Huawei to deliver 5G, a move former business secretary Vince Cable pointed out was not based on security concerns but blind obedience to the United States.

But major problems facing humanity require international co-operation — and China’s leading position in green technology makes co-operation in this field essential.

Sanctions applied to Chinese solar panel exports based on US allegations of forced labour slowed commissioning of new solar energy plants in the US by an estimated 25 per cent last year.

We are hobbling emissions reduction based on rumours — nothing more. Even the much-vaunted “spy balloon” shot down by the US earlier this year never did any spying, Washington quietly admitted a few weeks later.

In the process, we are shoring up US dominance of high-tech and digital platforms — with the transatlantic furore against TikTok being used to drive out a rare non-US-owned digital player and entrench the position of companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, which are repeatedly caught spying on their users.

The new cold war is becoming a vehicle for the right to secure liberal consent to greater censorship, a weird trade protectionism operated on behalf of a foreign government (the United States) and abandonment of environmental targets.

The left should not fall into the same trap.

The Chinese need to stay poor because the US has done so much to destroy the planet

In this insightful article on the Real-World Economics Review Blog, Dean Baker deconstructs the standard anti-China narrative in relation to climate change.

Firstly, he deals with the idea that, when comparing countries’ greenhouse gas emissions, population size is of no importance; what matters is absolute emissions. Baker points out that this logic could easily be applied to justify obscenely high emissions levels for any country with a relatively small population – but if all small countries were to consume such a quota, the climate crisis would be a great deal worse that it is now. The only reason US politicians insist on talking about absolute rather than per capita emissions is that, “measured in per capita terms, the United States is among the worst emitters on the planet.”

Baker also discusses the implications that “historic emissions somehow entitle a country to future emissions.” Pointing out that historical greenhouse gas emissions correlate closely with economic development, the author reiterates the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: that the advanced, wealthy countries must take the lead when it comes to reducing emissions and developing green technology. Towards this end, the US could and should “adopt a policy of making all the technology that it develops fully open-source, so that everyone in the world could take advantage of it, without concerns about patent monopolies or other protections. That would help to speed the process of diffusion so that clean technologies could be adopted more quickly around the world.”

In reality, the US ruling class shows no sign of taking such a measure. Thankfully, as Baker points out, China has taken the lead on renewable energy, electric vehicles, green public transport, forestation and biodiversity protection. “The Chinese government apparently has far more concern for the future of the planet than its critics in the United States.”

That line is effectively the conventional wisdom among people in policy circles. If that seems absurd, then you need to think more about how many politicians and intellectual types are approaching climate change.

Just this week, John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, was in China. He was asking the Chinese government to move more quickly in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. President Xi told Kerry that China was not going to move forward its current target, which is to start reducing emissions by 2030.

I know from Twitter that many people think that Kerry’s request was reasonable and that Xi is jeopardizing the planet with his refusal to move forward China’s schedule for emission reductions. This is in spite of the fact that China is by far the world leader in wind energy, solar energy, and electric cars and that all three are growing at double-digit annual rates.

Continue reading The Chinese need to stay poor because the US has done so much to destroy the planet

Kerry must understand – the climate crisis lives in a developmental context

In the following article, submitted to us by Keith Lamb, the author argues that the current China visit by John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, provides an opportunity for the two countries to cooperate in an area that is vital for the future, indeed the survival, of humanity. However, he notes that approaching this issue in isolation is not feasible in the long-term. The fight against climate catastrophe has to be combined with that for development as well as against war and for peace. The Global Development Initiative (GDI), proposed by President Xi Jinping, provides just such a holistic template and approach and is already reflected in numerous agreements between China and other countries of the Global South.

“How can we achieve our global climate goals without having Beijing working with us? We can’t, it’s that simple! There’s no way any one country can solve this crisis and particularly if we’re large emitting nations.” This was the answer of US climate envoy John Kerry being interviewed on MSNBC. He went on to claim that China and the US had agreed to separate climate, which affects us all, from the many other bilateral Sino-US issues.

This sensible recognition that there is a wider commonality binding humanity together is a welcome change from the hegemonic “America first” and faux human-rights rhetoric too often emanating from US circles. When it comes to climate and cooperation with China, Kerry went on to say that, “it’s not a question of the US giving away something, by cooperating we all gain something.”

This pragmatic win-win attitude should serve the diplomatic and well-mannered Kerry well on his current July 16-19 trip to Beijing, where he will discuss the climate crisis and hopefully promote a successful COP28 climate change conference, due to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Coming after the recent visit by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, it may also serve to thaw Sino-US tensions.

However, for real climate cooperation, which seeks the salvation of our planet and humanity, the many Sino-US tensions to which Kerry alludes cannot be bracketed off indefinitely. These tensions include the trade war, sanctions, interference in China’s domestic affairs, not least regarding Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the US’ military containment of China.

To illustrate this point, climate talks have been suspended in the past, due to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The weather balloon debacle led to Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling his Beijing visit. The pushing of China’s red lines, the threatening of China’s integrity, and the China threat hysteria all push the world closer to the possibility of environmental annihilation, as the US plays a fool’s game of ‘chicken’, risking nuclear catastrophe.

Even without this dire outcome, according to Brown University, the US military is responsible for twice the amount of greenhouse emissions as all the cars in the US. War causes incalculable damage to the environment due to factors such as fuel infrastructure destruction and the use of depleted uranium.[1] In Ukraine, we have seen how the destruction of energy infrastructure has led to renewed use of coal and the purchasing of expensive and environmentally damaging US fracked gas by Europe.

Continue reading Kerry must understand – the climate crisis lives in a developmental context

Renewable energy development is less important than stopping Chinese industry!

In this brief but incisive blog post, Canadian anti-imperialist writer Justin Podur unpacks the contradictory remarks made by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during her visit to Beijing, complaining about China’s use of state subsidies in certain parts of its economy. As Justin points out, “if the market system is the best and most efficient, why would Yellen complain about China using state subsidies or protections and interfering in it? Wouldn’t that just allow the US to use the market to win the game?” And why would they want China to adopt measures that would – according to free-market fundamentalism – accelerate its rise?

The reality is that the US wants Beijing to adopt an economic strategy that “would actually destroy the basis of China’s growth and ensure its subordination to the US.” One side-effect of this is that it would cause a major disruption to the solar energy industry, in which China is dominant (Justin notes that China holds 80 percent of photovoltaic patents worldwide). As such, “the imperialist anxiety to stop the rise of Chinese industry conflicts with the green priority for a transition to renewables.” But in this battle of priorities between hegemonism and the environment, the US is siding with hegemonism. An important reminder that the struggle against the New Cold War is also a struggle to keep the planet habitable.

Janet Yellen went to China and warned them there would be consequences if they didn’t adopt a market economy. There’s so many admissions in this little statement that shouldn’t go unnoticed. If the market system is the best and most efficient, as its proponents claim, why would Yellen complain about China using state subsidies or protections and interfering in it? Wouldn’t that just allow the US to use the market to win the game? If the market is the “cheat code”, as the gamers say, then how could China “cheat” by using non-market mechanisms? The flip side of the coin is also there. If the US, as its officials repeatedly cry, is desperate to stop the rise of China, why would they advise China to take steps (like market reforms) that should, according to market theory, only accelerate China’s rise? Perhaps it is because Yellen knows market reforms would actually destroy the basis of China’s growth and ensure its subordination to the US.

I want to talk about one of these Chinese industries that has grown up under state subsidy and protection that is – again according to Western environmentalists – very important in the struggle against climate change: photovoltaics (solar panels) and other renewable energy technologies.

There’s this video from a youtube channel called Tech Teller that outlines some details about the rise of China’s PV industry. The news hook for the video was the arrest of a Chinese PV executive, Pu Yonghua of Jiangsu Green Power New Energy, in Germany. It looked like Germany was going to pull a Canada (with the kidnapping of Meng Wanzhou of Huawei) and get into a pointless years-long conflict at US urging. But it looks like Pu Yonghua was released a few days later.

Tech teller’s video provides some “startling figures” about China’s dominance in PV:

  • of 150,000 PV patents worldwide, Chinese companies hold 120,000 of them.
  • The top ten PV companies in the world are all Chinese.
  • Chinese PV has a market share of 60% in the US and peaked at 95% in the EU. EU’s domestic PV capacity accounted for 3% of market share there.
  • 200 countries are customers of Chinese PV products.

The EU’s attempt to raise its renewable energy use to reduce its dependence on Russian gas is ultimately a plan to transfer its dependence on Russia — to China.

China’s PV industry is so far ahead that the US and EU industries are going to have a lot of difficulty catching up. This despite, as the video tells, depraved and repeated attempts to stop China from developing by both the US and EU.

There are problems with PV, as environmentalists like Stan Cox have noted, including the mining footprint of rare earths and the use of fossil fuels in their production. But there is a Green consensus on the need to get off of fossil fuels and PV technology will be key to get there. The imperialist anxiety to stop the rise of Chinese industry conflicts with Green the green priority for a transition to renewables. It is another case of Western imperialism vs the environment. If you believe climate change is an existential issue for the species like nuclear war, you could use Chomsky’s phrase and consider it a choice between Hegemony or Survival.

Which do you think the US will choose?