Now here's a curveball to secular Western policy experts: China's
intellectuals are openly debating the role of Confucianism,
Buddhism, and Taoism in promoting the Communist Party's vision of a
harmonious society and ecologically sustainable economic
Nowhere is the question of what to do about the environment more
vital than in China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases
- especially because scientists agree that climate change
disproportionately affects the poor and the disenfranchised and that
climate change will affect future generations far more than the
Yet the general impression of China's role in issues relating to
environment is one of foot-dragging because it hasn't bought into a
Western model to address it.
But Pan Yue, China's vice minister for environmental protection,
is calling for China to capitalize on traditional Chinese religions
in promoting ecological sustainability.
He says, "One of the core principles of traditional Chinese
culture is that of harmony between humans and nature. Different
philosophies all emphasize the political wisdom of a balanced
environment. Whether it is the Confucian idea of humans and nature
becoming one, the Taoist view of the Tao reflecting nature, or the
Buddhist belief that all living things are equal, Chinese philosophy
has helped our culture to survive for thousands of years. It can be
a powerful weapon in preventing an environmental crisis and building
a harmonious society."
And this just might work.
As The New York Times recently reported, China is in the midst of
a transformation to cleaner forms of energy.
Although much of China's energy needs are still met by
inefficient, coal-fired power stations with poor track records in
terms of emissions, China has begun to invest heavily in cleaner
coal technology in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce
Because of this, the International Energy Agency reduced its
estimate of the increase in Chinese emissions of global warming
gases from 3.2 percent to 3 percent even as the same agency raised
its estimate of China's economic growth. China is managing to
increase its economic output at a greater rate than its emissions.
This is good news for everyone.
But buried innocuously in the middle of this report was the
startlingly frank statement of Cao Peixi, president of the China
Huaneng group, China's largest state-owned electric company. …