Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

China breaks new world record

with 9 comments

It’s amazing really; thanks to the hypocrisy of the Communist Party of China (CPC) since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China has achieved in 36 years what Western Capitalism has taken more than ten times as long to achieve.  Thanks to Andrew Marr’s History of the World, I recently became aware of the way in which stock markets were first created in the wake of the World’s first commodity trading bubble – the tulip mania of Holland in the 1630s…

Since that time, Western Capitalism has succeeded in inventing and then abolishing slavery (but not before making sure that this colonial exploitation denuded an entire continent of the one thing that might have enabled it to prosper on its own terms)…  It invented industry, pollution, and sewage treatment works…  It invented colonial exploitation and then made a great show of renouncing it; only to perpetuate it by other means – through the instruments of multi-national companies, stock markets, trade agreements, and global institutions…   It extended the right to vote to all men and then even women too…   It lifted huge numbers of people out of absolute poverty and tantalised millions more with the promise of a better life…  In the UK, we invented mandatory education for all children; and created and later abolished Grammar Schools – favouring instead the Comprehensive system that has succeeded only in failing all children equally…

In the final analysis, however, globalised Capitalism has – just like the Atlantic Slave Trade – served only the interests of those who were already better-off; and it has been spectacularly successful in one thing only – making them even more wealthy than they were before…  We may well have eradicated Smallpox but, in the last Century – irrespective of the changes of government –  the gap between rich and poor has grown steadily wider and wider.  The trickle-down effect of the Reagan and Thatcher era was a cruel myth; in reality wealth has become evermore concentrated in the hands of a super-wealthy elite.  Some, like Patrice Ayme, would call it a plutocracy but – whatever you want to call it – its only interest today is in ensuring its own survival.  In a way, it is analogous to the Skynet of the movie Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines:  It has become self-aware and is proceeding to exterminate its enemy – humanity itself.

As I said, the CPC has achieved all this in only 36 years and it too has now hit the growthmania equivalent of what Marathon runners refer to as “The Wall”…  Ten times as fast and just as successfully, having promised to raise all its people out of poverty, it has comprehensively failed to achieve its stated aims.  Once again, I find myself quoting John Gray from page xiv of the 2009 edition of False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism:

Always a utopian project, global laissez-faire has run aground on its own contradictions.

Along the way, however, the CPC decided to construct a protective fortress around itself in the form of a million millionaires; and a burgeoning middle class…  The CPC has embraced the need to tackle climate change but only because it perceives it as a threat to its own long-term survival…  Sadly, although it has not taken its foot off the economic accelerator, the fuel tank is now empty…  It has lent so much money to the West and seen very little return in recent years…  It has cities the size of Lower Manhattan with dozens of skyscrapers built and no-one to rent them to…  What a mad, mad, World this is in which we all live…

But don’t just take my word for it, see it and read it for yourself, courtesy of the BBC’s China correspondent, Damian Grammaticas…  In the run up to the latest renewal of the CPC’s very own plutocracy, Damian is once again performing a valuable public service by focusing on the spectacular contradictions that the CPC’s multi-decadal abuse of power has caused:

In the past two decades China’s economy has grown by 10% a year and more than 400m people have been lifted out of poverty.  But China’s growth has been deeply uneven. Those in the right places with the right connections have been able to become astonishingly rich.  There are now 1.4 million Chinese US dollar millionaires. The number of billionaires has grown from 15 in 2006 to 251 today.
Week in China: Guizhou, the poorest province

China’s economic growth has been deeply uneven. Most have seen their lives improve in the past two decades, and 400 million Chinese have lifted themselves out of poverty. But those in the right places with the right connections, usually in the cities, have gained incredible riches. So China today is among the most unequal countries in the world. The serious and growing inequalities are a problem China’s next leaders know they must tackle as the gap between the rich and the rest grows wider.
China’s ever-widening wealth gap

For more of my thoughts on (the climate sceptic) Andrew Marr’s History of the World programmes, you will have to cut and paste the programme title into the search box in the right-hand column.

For more of my many thoughts on China, you can do a category search (or just click here) – which presents all my related posts in reverse chronological order.

Written by Martin Lack

2 November 2012 at 00:02

9 Responses

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  1. When you say:
    “(but not before making sure that this colonial exploitation denuded an entire continent of the one thing that might have enabled it to prosper on its own terms)”
    …what are you referring to?



    2 November 2012 at 03:12

    • Sorry for being needlessly obscure, het. What I meant was that, by virtue of the Slave Trade, we robbed Africa of the healthiest members of its human population. Thus began the impoverishment of Africa. Having done this, we have asset-stripped the continent and continue to do so – colonial and now commercial exploitation.

      If you live in (or ever visit) the UK, try and get to the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.

      Martin Lack

      2 November 2012 at 07:50

  2. Dear Mr Lack. Have you ever heard or read about the Sultanate of Sopotko (is that the correct spelling?) in what is now Northern Nigeria? And I think that a glance at what the colonial powers left behind should also be inserted into the equation. There are many varieties of exploitation and they are not all, necessarily, one-way streets.


    5 November 2012 at 11:14

    • If you are trying to say that no-one is perfect, Duncan, I agree with you. However, the history of British involvement in China is not a pretty one… As in trading opium from India for all the tea in China (so we have no right to claim any moral high ground when it comes to the opium trade today).

      As far as Africa is concerned, I think I have made my position clear enough. Even if it is conceded that Africa has recovered from the forced removal of humans as a result of the slave trade, the colonial exploitation of Africa, especially since the Industrial Revolution, has left the continent with a whole raft of artificially-created nation states whose economies are still dominated by foreign-owned companies.

      Martin Lack

      5 November 2012 at 19:52

  3. I’ve ‘liked’ this, but I’m not so sure I do — you seem to be having a pop at China, but why, I can’t quite figure out. The real culprits in this farce are simply the same old fools, homo fatuus brutus.


    5 November 2012 at 21:42

    • Yes, I am “having a pop” at the hypocrisy of the Communist Party. However, I could just as easily have had a pop at the British Government for the opium trade in the 19th Century…

      There should be no barriers to criticism of human hypocrisy. Sustainable development does not make excuses for hypocrisy; and it does not discriminate between political ideologies… Indeed, sustainable development is not an ideology – it’s just physics – and if we continue to ignore this fact modern civilisation has a very limited shelf life.

      Martin Lack

      6 November 2012 at 09:12

      • Once again I find myself in complete agreement with you. Odd, isn’t it?😉


        6 November 2012 at 20:18

        • Although I understand the humour, given that I was genuinely worried at our apparently not doing so, I am relieved that we do agree… Thanks for being a faithful commentator on this blog.

          Martin Lack

          6 November 2012 at 20:31

        • Ah, Martin… I despair (I really do[1]). Perhaps one day you’ll realise the 80-20 rule applies to much of what I say[2].

          [1] … but that’s because of matters other than this
          [2] I’ve got 80% of my tongue firmly in my cheek 20% of the time


          6 November 2012 at 20:39

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