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.”


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?

Can we avoid war with China, and save the planet instead?

In this review of Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red: Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century, author and activist Dee Knight decries the US ruling class’s obsession with maintaining its “single-superpower status”. This obsession – shared by both Republicans and Democrats – is the top source of instability and the threat of war. Furthermore, it stands in the way of desperately-needed cooperation to prevent climate breakdown.

Dee writes that, while the US is aggressive in asserting its hegemony, China is “aggressive about saving the planet”, becoming the world’s first renewable energy superpower. It is in the process of shifting its growth model towards high-quality, green growth, based on innovation and emphasizing fairness of distribution. However, China’s path to modernization – built on common prosperity, peace, and harmony with nature – is “viable for a socialist society, but difficult to achieve with capitalism in which growth is the holy grail, no matter at what cost.” Dee writes that “China can indeed have ‘the best of both worlds’ – faster growth through centralized planning in a mixed economy, and better quality development since it doesn’t have to depend exclusively on the profit motive.”

As such, China’s socialism provides valuable inspiration and support for the countries of the Global South.

This article was first carried in LA Progressive on 22 June 2023.

Carlos’s book can be purchased in paperback and electronic formats from Praxis Press.

As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in China June 18, a NY Times report said “a wall of suspicion awaits him.” In a phone call before the visit, the report said “China’s foreign minister told Mr. Blinken it was ‘clear who bears responsibility’ for deteriorating bilateral relations.” The report added that the US has “issued a barrage of sanctions on Chinese officials and companies, and tried to cut off Chinese access to critical technology globally.”

The next day Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Blinken. Xi said China “respects the interests of the United States and will not challenge or replace the United States,” and that Washington “must also respect China and not harm China’s legitimate rights and interests.” Xi also said what happens between the two countries has a “bearing on the future and destiny of mankind,” and that their two governments “should properly handle Sino-US relations with an attitude of being responsible to history, the people and the world.”

There was a near-war incident in the Taiwan Strait during the second week of June. A Chinese patrol boat intercepted a US Navy war ship. The two vessels came within about 150 yards of each other, according to reports. US officials deemed the Chinese interception an “unnecessary provocation,” claiming its war ship was merely exercising freedom of navigation on the open seas. The Chinese defense minister said such “freedom of navigation” patrols are a provocation to China.

For US officials The Taiwan Strait is “open seas,” but China regards the narrow waterway as part of its internal territorial waters. For comparison, we can imagine what would happen if China sent war ships to exercise freedom of navigation next to the island of Santa Catalina, near Los Angeles, or near Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.

The Taiwan Strait interception is a reminder of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to the nightmare of war in Vietnam. The two incidents are part of a pattern: the US first fosters and fortifies “friendly” elements inside a country it wants to dominate, then deploys its military dangerously close to the chosen enemy’s borders; then it accuses the enemy of “aggression.” The pattern has been at work against both China and Russia in recent years. The results have already been disastrous, and could easily become catastrophic.

Continue reading Can we avoid war with China, and save the planet instead?

Oppose the war drive and work with China to prevent climate catastrophe

Below is the text of the speech given by Paul Atkin, a retired teacher, National Education Union activist and climate campaigner, to the event we recently co-organised at the Marx Memorial Library in London, Socialist solutions to the climate crisis.

Paul gives an overview of China’s impressive efforts towards preventing climate breakdown and protecting biodiversity. For example, while China is still quite dependent on coal, the proportion of coal in China’s energy mix has dropped from over 80 percent to more like 50 percent in the space of just over a decade. China accounts for half the world’s off-shore wind investment and approximately 99 percent of the world’s electric buses (“in 2019, of 425,000 electric buses in the world, 2,500 of them were not in China”). China’s investment in wind and solar has had an important global impact, in that it has “been on such a large scale that it has made them a cheaper source of energy than fossil fuels, which is a crucial global life line.”

China’s unprecedented investment in high-speed rail has resulted in a decrease in domestic air traffic – in contrast with the US, where there is almost no high-speed rail and domestic air traffic is increasing. While the US spends 14 times as much on its military than on green transition, China spends more than double on its green transition than on its military.

Unfortunately, Paul observes, the anti-China propaganda in the West is so powerful that very few are paying attention to its progress on these issues, even within the left and the climate movement. Paul calls on socialists and climate activists to tell the truth about China and expose lies; to oppose the war drive; and to oppose the notion of decoupling, noting that the US’s sanctions on solar panels from China have led to a 23 percent reduction in solar installations in the US.

The speech is also published on Paul’s Urban Ramblings blog.

What China does to tackle the climate crisis will have a huge impact on whether humanity succumbs to it or not.

This is partly because it

  • is already the world’s largest economy in Purchase Power Parity terms
  • has a population greater than that of Europe, North America, South America and Australasia combined; a four continent country
  • is a developing country that has developed very successfully
  • is now exceeding the US in the number of patents for new inventions filed every year
  • is a country run, not by the private sector interests that make the USA the best democracy money can buy, but by a Communist Party with 90 million members; whose project is to build Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

This is in a context in which the US – as the self proclaimed “indispensable nation” and “global leader” – the country for which the rules in the “rules based international order” are written – is failing spectacularly to lead the world in confronting its greatest existential challenge – the breakdown of the climactic conditions in which human society can continue to exist – and prioritising war instead.

  • On current government spending, the US is putting fourteen times as much into its military as it is into domestic green transmission, and is encouraging its allies to increase theirs too; which they are doing.
  • The economic context of this is that, because globalisation now favours China not the US, the US is “decoupling” from it and pressing its subordinate allies to do the same, while screwing them over at the same time.
  • China, by contrast, is spending more than twice as much on green transition as on its military. More precise look at these figures here.

China’s is the right priority for every country because of the scale of the problem. Reports that the 1.5C limit is fast getting beyond reach should be a klaxon going off in all our heads. Not an invitation to fatalism, which will be fatal, but to redouble efforts to accelerate the scale and speed of transition to limit the damage as much as possible.

Continue reading Oppose the war drive and work with China to prevent climate catastrophe

Nicaraguan ambassador: only socialist and revolutionary countries are putting people over profit

Below we are pleased to publish the text of the powerful speech given by Guisell Morales Echaverry, Ambassador of the Republic of Nicaragua to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland, to the event we recently co-organised at the Marx Memorial Library in London, Socialist solutions to the climate crisis.

Guisell notes it’s the socialist and progressive governments – including China, Cuba and Nicaragua – that are taking the most resolute action on protecting the environment. She goes on to describe Nicaragua’s extraordinary progress tackling ecological issues whilst simultaneously bringing about a historic reduction in poverty and improvement in people’s living conditions.

She concludes: “The capitalist system is killing the planet. With its insatiable pursuit of profit and market anarchy, it’s destroying the environment, wiping out ecosystems and biodiversity, and polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink. Capitalism is driving humanity to extinction. The need to create a new international socialist economic model is urgent.”

Climate change is no longer an impending threat or hypothetical problem for future generations.  It is here and now. Hurricanes are becoming more powerful. Forests are burning. Plastic and chemical waste is polluting underground water and oceans. Heat waves, drought, floods, and famine are killing people and creating an exodus of refugees. Species are becoming extinct through the senseless destruction of ecosystems.

But also, the knowledge, the science, the means are here: to decarbonise electricity grids and transport, to slashed Pollution levels, to grow food sustainable, to recycle waste, and for the forests to be replanted.

But this requires two things: planning and resources.

Capitalist countries, the historical and current biggest polluters, are not willing to carry out the radical changes that are required, because these changes are not profitable. 

Only socialist and revolutionary countries are putting the planet and people over profit, with bold transformative action to curtail climate change.

Only socialist and progressive governments can bring about the daring transformations to overcome this threat to humanity.

We will hear from the panelists – from Dan Kovalik, Lauren Collins, Paul Atkin – about the efforts made by socialist, revolutionary and progressive countries to overcome climate disaster; specifically how Nicaragua, Cuba and China are making huge environmental achievements to improve the living conditions of working people in harmony with the planet.

Continue reading Nicaraguan ambassador: only socialist and revolutionary countries are putting people over profit

Event in London explores socialist solutions to the climate crisis

On Thursday 2 February 2023, Friends of Socialist China organised – along with the Marx Memorial Library, Morning Star, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group and Cuba Solidarity Campaign – a hybrid in-person/online event at Marx Memorial Library on socialist solutions to the climate crisis, with a particular focus on the strategies being pursued in China, Nicaragua and Cuba in relation to preventing climate breakdown, the collapse of biodiversity, and other key ecological challenges.

Guisell Morales Echaverry, Ambassador of the Republic of Nicaragua to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland, noted that the major capitalist countries – historically the biggest polluters – have utterly failed to meaningfully address the environmental crisis. Instead, it’s the socialist and progressive governments that are taking resolute action and that have been powerful voices for climate justice. Guisell described Nicaragua’s remarkable progress on ecological issues, including sourcing 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources; its successes in pursuing food sovereignty; and its commitment to agroecology and agroforestry. She concluded by stating that the capitalist system is killing the planet with its market anarchy and relentless pursuit of profit. It’s driving us to extinction. Socialism is the future and the key to human survival.

Ben Chacko, editor of the Morning Star, observed that Britain, the US and the other Western powers are failing to meet their ecological commitments. They claim to understand there’s a problem that needs solving, but they’ve left the green transition in the hands of companies that profit the most from fossil fuels. What we end up with is greenwashing, such as rebranding BP as ‘Beyond Petroleum’. Ben made a connection between the questions of climate breakdown and war, pointing to the extraordinary environmental damage caused by the military-industrial complex, most of all the US military. Meanwhile the sanctions regime against Russia is causing significant reverses, with Germany for example reopening coal mines. Ben contrasted this with the action being taken in the socialist world – “there’s a clear attitude in Beijing, Havana and Managua that we have to urgently face up to this crisis.”

Dan Kovalik, US-based activist and lawyer, and author of the new book Nicaragua: A History of Us Intervention & Resistance, said that climate change is a problem created by rich people and rich countries, but it’s a problem that’s having its most devastating effect on poor people and poor countries; he cited the startling fact that the Dallas Cowboys stadium uses more electricity on a game night than Liberia does in an entire day. Dan talked in detail about the relationship between war and the environment – for example the disastrous environmental degradation suffered by Iraq – and noted that China, Cuba and Nicaragua are all countries that prioritise humanity and the planet rather than engaging in military aggression. He pointed to the importance of Lula’s victory in the Brazilian elections, observing that, when asked if Brazil would send weapons to Ukraine, Lula said that our war is with poverty, not Russia. Dan described the important work being done in Nicaragua on alternative fuels, rainforest protection, protection of indigenous lands, and integration into a rising multipolar system of international relations.

Lauren Collins, an honorary research fellow at the University of Nottingham and member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign executive committee, talked about Cuba’s approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation and highlighted Cuba’s vulnerability to the environmental crisis: while Cuba is responsible for just 0.06 percent of global emissions, it’s experiencing a significant increase in severe weather events, hurricanes, rising sea levels, degradation of arable land, drought and higher temperatures, all of which are having a serious impact on health and agriculture. Lauren described Tarea Vida, Cuba’s wide-ranging state program to confront climate change, which places a strong emphasis on community self-organisation and the participation of trade unions, Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women and other mass organisations in adapting to the changing ecosystem. Lauren also spoke of the devastating impact of the US’s illegal blockade, one of the effects of which is to shut Cuba out of various funding sources for climate change adaptation.

Paul Atkin, a retired teacher, National Education Union activist and climate campaigner, focused on China’s impressive efforts towards preventing climate breakdown and protecting biodiversity. For example, while China is still quite dependent on coal, the proportion of coal in China’s energy mix has dropped from over 80 percent to more like 50 percent in the space of just over a decade. China accounts for half the world’s off-shore wind investment and approximately 99 percent of the world’s electric buses. China’s unprecedented investment in high-speed rail has resulted in a decrease in domestic air traffic – in contrast with the US, where there is almost no high-speed rail and domestic air traffic is increasing. While the US spends 14 times as much on its military than on green transition, China spends more than double on its green transition than on its military. Unfortunately, Paul observed, the anti-China propaganda in the West is so powerful that very few are paying attention to its progress on these issues, even within the left and the climate movement. Paul called on the audience to tell the truth about China and expose lies; to oppose the war drive; and to oppose the notion of decoupling, noting that the US’s sanctions on solar panels from China have led to a 23 percent reduction in solar installations in the US.

A lively and useful Q&A session followed the presentations. The stream of the event is embedded below.

Event: Socialist solutions to the climate crisis

DateThursday 2 February
Time7pm Britain / 2pm US Eastern / 11am US Pacific
VenueMarx Memorial Library
London EC1R 0DU
And Zoom
OrganisersFriends of Socialist China
Morning Star
Marx Memorial Library
Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group
Cuba Solidarity Campaign

At this event, we will describe the evolving and diverse strategies being pursued in socialist and progressive countries (with a specific focus on Nicaragua, Cuba and China) in relation to preventing climate breakdown, the collapse of biodiversity, and other key ecological challenges. The speakers will compare these efforts with the alarmingly slow progress being made in the neoliberal West, which has been touting its ‘market-based solutions’ to humanity’s environmental crisis for the last three decades.

This will be a hybrid event, in-person at the Marx Memorial Library in London and online. If you register on Eventbrite, you will have the option to attend via Zoom and participate in the discussion. We will also be streaming on YouTube.


Dan Kovalik is a US-based lawyer, activist and teacher. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which is Nicaragua: A History of US Intervention and Resistance.

Guisell Morales Echaverry is Ambassador of the Republic of Nicaragua to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland.

Lauren Collins is an honorary research fellow at the University of Nottingham and a member of the executive committee of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.

Paul Atkin is a retired teacher and NEU activist, involved in setting up the NEU Climate Change Network. He is part of the Greener Jobs Alliance Steering Group and is active with No Cold War Britain.

Ben Chacko (chair) is editor of the Morning Star.

Please register and spread the word!

Summit links biodiversity with culture

The following article, published in China Daily, summarizes the proceedings of a Nature and Culture summit held during the 15th meeting of the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Montreal on 11-12 December 2022. The article is particularly interesting for the points it makes regarding the role of minority groups in protecting the environment and promoting a harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature.

Huang Runqiu, China’s Minister of Ecology and Environment, and the president of COP15, “stressed the importance of cultural diversity, especially the experience and knowledge from minority groups.” Huang also highlighted the importance of fully respecting and protecting traditional cultures around the world, appreciating and making use of their understanding of biodiversity protection and encouraging the transmission of this understanding from generation to generation.

The article contrasts this approach with the colonial powers’ record of land grabs, intellectual property restrictions and profiteering. Indigenous Canadian activist and academic Priscilla Settee, professor emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan, told the meeting that “we need to get our history right. We need to acknowledge the centuries of colonialism … based in global imperialism through land grabs. We need to take a critical look at international free trade agreements that I call bills of rights for the rich and powerful.”

A global dialogue on strengthening the links between nature and cultures to achieve a sustainable and ecological civilization also highlighted the achievements and actions taken by China.

Officials, experts and nongovernmental organization (NGO) members gathered at a Nature and Culture summit during the 15th meeting of the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Dec 11-12, in support of the implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

In his opening remarks, Huang Runqiu, the Chinese minister of ecology and environment and the president of COP15, stressed the importance of cultural diversity, especially the experience and knowledge from minority groups.

The relationship between nature and culture is vibrant, said Huang. Culture is deeply intertwined with the natural world. Chinese culture contains a clear concept of harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature, he said.

For example, Yunnan province, where the first phase of the COP15 meeting was held, is home to 26 traditional ethnic groups and 15 unique minority groups, forming a series of traditional ecological cultures such as the Hani Terrace Culture, Naxi Dongba Culture, Dai Long Mountain Culture, and Tibetan Holy Land Culture.

Their worldviews, cultural values and identities are closely connected to nature, as per their saying, “Humans and nature are half-brothers”.

Continue reading Summit links biodiversity with culture

Xi Jinping: global solidarity is the only way to protect biodiversity

The following speech by Xi Jinping, delivered at COP15 (the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity), details China’s progress over the past decade in biodiversity protection, including the establishment of a system of conservation red lines, a system of national parks, and the successful protection of a large array of rare and endangered species. Xi makes it clear that China is strongly committed to improving biodiversity and will continue to work hard on ecological protection.

The speech also highlights the importance of international cooperation; that “solidarity and cooperation is the only effective way to address global challenges” such as biodiversity protection and the Covid19 pandemic. Xi calls for greater support to be given to developing countries to allow them to build capacity in dealing with climate change and biodiversity. This is a salutary reminder, at a time when the major imperialist powers are promoting “decoupling” and adopting aggressive geopolitical stances – promoting their own narrow, hegemonic interests over the wellbeing and long-term viability of humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning.

On behalf of the Chinese government and people, and also in my own name, I would like to extend warm congratulations to the convening of today’s meeting.

Humanity lives in a community with a shared future. Be it in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, or in enhancing biodiversity protection and achieving sustainable development globally, solidarity and cooperation is the only effective way to address global challenges. A sound ecosystem is essential for the prosperity of civilization. We must work together to promote harmonious co-existence between man and Nature, build a community of all life on the Earth, and create a clean and beautiful world for us all.

— We need to build global consensus on biodiversity protection, jointly work for the conclusion of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and identify targets and pathways for global biodiversity protection.

— We need to push forward the global process of biodiversity protection, turn ambitions into action, support developing countries in capacity-building, and coordinate efforts to address climate change, biodiversity loss and other global challenges.

— We need to promote green development through biodiversity protection, speed up the green transition of development modes and lifestyle, and leverage the Global Development Initiative (GDI) to deliver greater benefits to people of all countries.

— We need to uphold a fair and equitable global order on biodiversity protection, firmly defend true multilateralism, firmly support the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law, and form strong synergy for protecting the Earth, our common homeland.

Continue reading Xi Jinping: global solidarity is the only way to protect biodiversity

On the development of China’s environmental policies towards an ecological civilization

We are very pleased to republish this important article by Efe Can Gürcan, Associate Professor at Türkiye’s Istinye University, which originally appeared in Volume 3 Issue 3 of the BRIQ (Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly).

The author argues that China has already developed a firm understanding of its environmental problems and their severity to the extent that it now frames them as a “matter of survival” and has brought these issues to the center of its revised national security strategy. China’s strategy is predicated on an alternative proposal for “ecological civilization”, which may potentially lead to the reversal of “ecological imperialism”. China is in the early stages of building an ecological civilization and requires a lot of work to reach a high level of ecological development.

China’s key achievements on the path towards ecological civilization involve a series of three unfolding and mutually conditioning revolutionary processes that also lead the way in international environmental cooperation. They include a clean energy revolution, a sustainable agricultural revolution, and a green urban revolution.

China has already become a global leader in green finance. It leads the eco-city movement, with over 43 percent of the world’s eco-cities being Chinese, and is the second leader in sustainable architecture, next to Canada. Many Chinese cities have dropped down or out of the list of the most polluted cities, leaving India and Pakistan at the top. China’s cities have also joined the ranks of those with the strongest sewage treatment capacity in the world. In addition, China has the most electric vehicles, bikes, and efficient public transportation. China is considered to be not only the world’s centre of electric bus production and consumption but also as having cities with the world’s longest subway systems.

From 2013 onwards, the share of coal in China’s total energy consumption has seen a noticeable decline, accompanied by the increasing share of renewable resources in total energy consumption as a result of conscious efforts at a clean energy revolution.

Key to this revolution in the making is China’s strong reputation as the world’s top investor in clean energy. As such, it has succeeded in creating the world’s largest wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems for power generation.

Finally, concerning China’s unfolding revolution in sustainable agriculture, one should acknowledge, not only its adoption of green food standards and the expansion of its agricultural area under certified organic farming, but especially the fact that, as a world leader in green agriculture, it now ranks third in the list of countries with the largest agricultural area under organic farming.

China is the world’s largest country by population size and fourth largest by surface area. Combined with its excessive demographic and geographic size is the continued legacy of Western imperialism in China as a former semi-colony, whose negative effects are amplified by current Western efforts in geopolitical and geo-economic containment. This adds to China’s resource scarcity which acts as another structural adversity constraining its development potential. China possesses only 7% of the world’s arable land and freshwater resources and 8% of the world’s natural resources, even though its population represents 22% of the world’s population. Furthermore, only 19% of its surface area is suitable for human habitation and 65% of its surface area is rugged, which severely cripples China’s farming capabilities and facilitates ethnic heterogeneity as a potential impediment to political cohesion (Morton, 2006; Naughton, 2018).

Despite such adversities, China has come to develop an exemplary model of economic development that inspires much of the developing world. The 1979-2018 period testified to an average growth rate of 9.4% in the lead of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which made China the world’s second-largest economy, top producer, and the leading exporter of technological goods (Hu, 2020). By 2015, China came to assume the global production of 40% of washing machines, 50% of textiles, 60% of buttons, 70% of shoes, 80% of televisions, and 90% of toys. Recently, China has made significant progress in the production of added higher-value products in computer, aviation, and medical technology sectors, among others. Besides its historic success in economic growth, industrial production and technological development, the Chinese economic miracle is credited for 70% of global poverty eradication between 1990 and 2015 (Gardner, 2018).

The huge ecological cost of such a fast-paced and dramatic development –unprecedented in the history of human civilization– is nothing but expected. According to 2009 estimates, the annual economic cost of environmental pollution amounts to 3.8% of China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Zhang, 2014:32-48). Over 80% of China’s underground and river water resources are no longer fit for human use due to pollution (Jie, 2016). Land pollution and soil erosion are also part of China’s major environmental problems. It is common knowledge that excessive use of pesticides and industrial pollution constitute a major source of land pollution, prompting the loss of organic matter and soil erosion. 2013 estimates suggest that close to 20% of China’s cultivated farmland suffers from contamination and 38% of the soil is subjected to erosion-related loss of nutrients and organic matter (Scott et al., 2018:26; Gardner, 2018:9). Indeed, the contraction of arable land is a natural result of soil contamination and erosion. This also explains China’s over 4% loss of arable land between 1990 and 2018, from 124,481,000 to 119,488,700 hectares (FAO, 2021; Figure 1).

China being the world’s largest pesticide producer and consumer exacerbates this tendency. In the 1990- 2018 period alone, China’s pesticide use rose by 129% (FAO, 2021; see Figure 2). Furthermore, 70% of the world’s electronic waste is recycled in China at the expense of environmental and public health. Industrial pollution, environmentally detrimental recycling practices, and industrial agriculture combined to create China’s “cancer villages” (Gardner, 2018). Map 1 provides a more detailed outline of China’s major environmental problems (Sanjuan, 2018).

Continue reading On the development of China’s environmental policies towards an ecological civilization

China is building an ecological civilisation

In this detailed essay, Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez analyses China’s pursuit of an ecological civilisation, characterised by “green, circular, and low-carbon development.”

Explaining how China came to be the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and contextualising this within the country’s rapid industrialisation and development, Carlos details the steps China is taking in support of its goals to peak emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Its achievements to date – in the fields of renewable energy, reduction of coal usage, nuclear power, energy efficiency, low-carbon transport and forestation – are all world-leading.

Carlos concludes the article with a discussion of why China, as opposed to any of the leading capitalist countries, has emerged as the global leader in sustainable development. The central component is that “the balance of power in capitalist countries is such that even relatively progressive governments find it very difficult to prioritise long-term needs of the population over short-term interests of capital,” whereas in socialist countries, “the interests of private profit are subordinate to the needs of society.”

Referencing the role played by the construction of welfare states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in pressuring the Western ruling classes to grant concessions to the working class (in the form of universal education, social housing and healthcare systems), the author opines that, today, “China’s environmental strategy can create pressure on the capitalist ruling classes to stop destroying the planet and commit to climate justice.”

This is an expanded and update version of the 2019 article China leads the way in tackling climate breakdown. A concise summary of the current version was carried by the Morning Star on 19 November 2022.

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 cost of the environment. (Xi Jinping)[1]

The cost of development

Few events in human history have resonated throughout the world as profoundly as the Chinese Revolution. Standing in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949, pronouncing the birth of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong said “the Chinese people have stood up”. In standing up, in building a modern socialist society and throwing off the shackles of feudalism, colonialism, backwardness, illiteracy and grinding poverty, China has blazed a trail for the entire Global South. Lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty has been described even by ardent capitalists as “the greatest leap to overcome poverty in history”.[2] The UN Development Programme (UNDP) describes China’s development as having produced “the most rapid decline in absolute poverty ever witnessed”.[3] It is an extraordinary accomplishment that all Chinese people now have secure access to food, housing, clothing, clean water, modern energy, education and healthcare.

In environmental terms, however, this progress has come at a cost. Just as economic development in Europe and the Americas was fuelled by the voracious burning of fossil fuels, China’s development has been built to a significant degree on ‘Old King Coal’, the most polluting and emissions-intensive of the fossil fuels. Two decades ago, coal made up around 80 percent of China’s energy mix. Environmental law expert Barbara Finamore notes that “coal, plentiful and cheap, was the energy source of choice, not just for power plants, but also for direct combustion by heavy industry and for heating and cooking in people’s homes.”[4]

Continue reading China is building an ecological civilisation

The people need a Green New Deal, but imperialism opts for “Better dead than red”

At the recent webinar marking the first anniversary of the International Manifesto Group’s document ‘Through Pluripolarity to Socialism’, Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez made a contribution about the ecological crises faced by humanity, comparing the progress (or lack thereof) tackling global warming in the West with that made by China.

Carlos observes that, in spite of the Biden administration’s oft-stated commitment to seriously reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, the US-led proxy war against Russia is having a disastrous environmental impact, leading to an increase in fracking and coal consumption. Meanwhile China is leading the world in renewable energy, electric vehicles and afforestation; and instead of cooperating with China and finding common solutions to common problems, the West instead imposes sanctions on Chinese products that are crucial to green energy supply chains. So, while people in the West might want a Green New Deal, but what they’re actually getting is “better dead than red.”

What I’m going to address in these brief remarks is the question of climate change; how it’s covered in the Manifesto, and the developments that have taken place in the last year since the Manifesto was released.

The Manifesto talks of “an ecological emergency of climate warming, pollution and biodiversity loss, rendering our planet increasingly uninhabitable.” And it points the blame for this situation at neoliberal capitalism, which has “turned everything the earth offers humanity gratis into plunder and profit.”

In terms of what neoliberal capitalism is doing, this analysis – very sad to say – still holds true. Indeed the situation is in many ways worse than it was a year ago, in spite of a great deal of rhetoric and the passing into US law, two months ago, of the Inflation Reduction Act, including climate commitments that Joe Biden considers to be a landmark success of his presidency to date.

It is, unquestionably, the US’s must important set of climate commitments thus far. Unfortunately, that’s not saying very much. It’s still nowhere near the type of unprecedented action the world needs from the US – which, of the major countries, has the highest per capita emissions in the world, and which has contributed a full quarter to global cumulative carbon emissions, in spite of having just four percent of the world’s population.

Even if the US meets its targets under the Inflation Reduction Act – which is doubtful enough – then in five years time it will still be generating significantly less renewable energy than China will generate this year.

But anyway, it’s more fruitful to look at what the US and its allies are actually doing, as opposed to what they say they’re doing or will do.

Most obviously, the US is driving NATO’s proxy war against Russia, which is nothing short of disastrous in environmental terms.

Continue reading The people need a Green New Deal, but imperialism opts for “Better dead than red”

Video: China plans new era of revolution in 20th CPC national congress

On 21 October 2022, Friends of Socialist China co-editors Danny Haiphong and Carlos Martinez joined Multipolarista editor Ben Norton to discuss the CPC’s 20th National Congress, currently drawing to a close in Beijing.

In the 90-minute stream embedded below, the three discuss some of the key themes emerging from the Congress, including the pursuit of China’s Second Centenary Goal (“building a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful”), common prosperity, ecological civilization, whole-process people’s democracy, and the need for self-reliance and military modernization in the face of escalating hostility from the imperialist countries.

The stream was broadcast simultaneously on Multipolarista, The Left Lens, and Friends of Socialist China.