By David L. Brown
The world’s fastest growing nation, both in terms of economic expansion and absolute population numbers, is firmly set on the path of building on the mistakes of the past. The Chicom leaders of the Middle Kingdom are determined to duplicate what was achieved in the West through the Industrial Revolution—achievements that are now being recognized as wasteful, damaging to the environment, and possibly threatening the very continuation of civilization.
This vast communist nation has become manufacturer to the world through its efficient use of a vast pool of what is virtually slave labor. In its drive for growth it has over-grazed its pasturelands and plowed too many acres of fragile soils, resulting in desertification and dust storms that regularly engulf its major cities and sometimes reach across the Pacific Ocean to taint the air of North America. It is burning coal in inefficient power plants that have created air pollution on a scale never seen before. It is despoiling its lands and ravaging its natural beauty to build miles of paved roads, thousands of skyscraper apartments, and factories to turn out not only trade goods for the West, but also automobiles, televisions, refrigerators, electric stoves, and all manner of consumer “improvements” for its upwardly mobile citizens.
Do the promises of “better times” for the Chinese people seem ominously similar to Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage?” Perhaps. And we all remember from our history lessons (well, at least those of us who paid attention do) what soon began during the ill-fated Hoover Presidency. (Reminder for those who did not pay attention: It was called The Great Depression.)
Now, just as the West is beginning to realize that past economic and industrial models can no longer be sustained, and to turn slowly but steadily toward environment-friendly approaches, China has become, according to an article in yesterday’s International on-line edition of Der Spiegel (read it here), “The Great Squanderer.”
China’s path in attempting to replicate in the 21st Century the Industrial Revolution of the West is particularly ill-conceived in view of the fact that the nation itself has few of the natural resources needed to support its planned growth. Funded with bucketloads of Western currencies earned by its cheap labor, China is buying up natural resources from every corner of the globe.
Examples include the vast quantities of timber being imported from Southeast Asia to support the construction of a huge and economically meaningless infrastructure for the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. China has already depleted its own forests, and now thousands of square kilometers of rainforest are being sacrificed to impress the world with China’s supposed greatness.