A critical book about China environmental policy is very interesting for those who are concerned about the future of the world. When the Chinese professor Yifei Li from Shanghai, with access to Chinese sources and cultural background, has joined forces with the environmental policy professor Judith Shapiro, known for the China study Mao's War Against Nature (2001), there is every reason to follow. The last decades have China apparently abandoned the modernist rhetoric of the Cultural Revolution, where large-scale actions were to coerce and subdue nature. They are talking about an "ecological civilization" and will themselves be at the forefront of the transformation of the world community. At the same time, the authors note, authoritarian China has abandoned the doctrine Deng Xiaoping advocated in the 1980s, that China should "hide its strength and take time."
To the rest of the world, China will not only show its power, but also action and speed in its dealings with environmental issues, as in everything else. The idea of China as the leader of an ecological civilization is for many a test: Can a more authoritarian regime be needed to solve environmental problems?
Are Western democracies too weak and cumbersome, too responsive to special interests and political tug-of-war to really tackle and do something about the environmental challenges? Is not an authoritarian government a perfect instrument for taking necessary but often unpopular environmental measures? Shapiro and Li's main grip is to turn the question around: Are not environmental arguments a perfect instrument for defending authoritarian use of force against their own people? And is it not also a perfect instrument for foreign policy acceptance, a means for China to secure global dominance?
The war against nature
Mao's initiative to exterminate the sparrows in China has become a terrifying example of ecological insanity, and the consequences were, of course, that nature got out of balance in ways Mao and the bureaucrats did not. . .