Sustainability and Energy Debates in China

By Alan Hunter.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Recently Chinese political leaders, public and scientists have been deeply concerned about ‘environmental security’ (huanjing anquan), ensuring the survival of the natural environment against the impacts of man-made hazards. After 2003, public debate intensified on the loss of agricultural land, pollution, and water-shortage: all classic symptoms of rapid industrialization. Environmental contamination is seen as having potential for social instability. The shortage of resources presents an even sharper challenge to social harmony, and even to national security. China is one of those countries facing very serious water shortages: per capita water resources are close to those of countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile there have been peasant movements to protest against land seizures, while others are concerned about loss of agricultural land to encroaching industry.

Some commentators take a negative view of the current Chinese government, considering it unreliable, fragile, tyrannical and ambitious; others are much more favourable, recognizing that the Communist Party government has presided over an unparalleled improvement in welfare. But neither faction denies its critical importance, since the role of China cannot be over-estimated. It has the world’s largest population and largest army, thousands of kilometres of land borders, and extensive off-shore territorial rights. Its economic power influences every region in the world, including South America, the former U.S. ‘backyard’.
It has always been an over-simplification to characterize China as monolithic, and in fact there is a very active and well-informed environmental lobby including many top scientists. Even top ministry officials and politicians dealing with oil and water resources join the public debate through the internet and other media.
This paper traces the evolution of Chinese debates on the relation between economic and social development and environmental issues: a discussion which in some ways parallels developments in other countries, but which is in other ways distinctive.

Keywords: Peoples Republic of China, Environment, Government, Internet

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 619.585KB).

Dr Alan Hunter

Senior Lecturer, Senior Lecturer in Peace Studies, Coventry University, Coventry, UK

Alan Hunter (UK) is currently Senior Lecturer in Peace Studies at the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies; and also a founding staff member of a new Applied Research Centre for Human Security based in Coventry. He was previously Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. He has studied and worked in several capacities and locations in Asia, including South India, Hong Kong, Singapore and particularly the PRC, having working relations and projects with Fudan, Nanjing, and Zhejiang Universities. As well as academic research and teaching, he has worked on international educational partnerships, and also has extensive experience of distance learning by both internet-based and flying faculty delivery. He has published in both English and Chinese; books include Protestantism in Contemporary China (1993); Wild Lily Prairie Fire: China’s Road to Democracy (1995); Contemporary China (1999); Peace Studies in the Chinese Century (2006). In Chinese academic journals he has published a series of articles on peace studies (Xuehai), as well as a short sociological study of Chinese Protestantism (1991) and a book discussing late nineteenth century Asian responses to colonialism focusing on Swami Vivekananda’s writings and visits to the USA (Zhejiang University Press: 2006). His current research interests include the cultural history of Sino-Indian relations; security issues in contemporary China including internet-based pressure-groups; and the emerging issue of human security. From 2002 to 2005, Dr Hunter was organiser of a British Council-funded link with Nanjing University, which led to several publications in Chinese and English including an innovative book: Peace Studies in the Chinese Century (London: Ashgate, 2006) and the first international peace studies symposium in China, hosted by Nanjing University in March 2005, with support from the British Consulate Shanghai, Nanjing Municipal Government and several other institutions.


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