Peculiarities of Chinese Culture and Governmental Policies in Relation to the Environment

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Introduction

Today, the world faces a number of problems associated with the environment. There is a wider accord that these problems can be solved by consolidating efforts of countries and the use of new green technologies. While Global Warming is, for example, one of the hotly debated environmental issues today, arriving at a consensus on dealing with it remains elusive. Measures aimed at carbon emission reduction such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (KP), which came into effect in 2005, have received both praises and criticisms, but perhaps criticisms in greater measures. Shorgen, for instance, affirms that “whereas the Kyoto Protocol is an effective measure and an important step in reduction of gas emissions, it is devoid of other social aspects such as culture’’ (Shrogen 34).

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This means that it does not take care of issues of culture as a conduit in environmental preservation. Indeed, policy makers who subscribe to the economic model of climate analysis criticize it citing that it is costly, and countries such as China are forced to bear its greatest brunt (Golub and Andea 9). For many people, the measures that have been put in place are shortsighted and far less comprehensive in coverage and emission reductions. It is for this reason that specific disciplines such as Chinese Studies offer great insights into Chinese culture and their governmental policies important in addressing environmental issues. Inherent in Chinese Studies are cultural aspects and governmental policies critical for environmental conservation.

Inherently, China, as one of the active players in the field of world politics and economy, has a high level of enhanced economic growth and industries. Chinese Studies explore these issues. According to Shrogen “China has an outstanding environmental problems’’ (Shrogen 7). These include water and air pollution, as well as greenhouse gas effect. The problematic relationship between humans and the environment in China can be seen from the position of water and air pollution as a result of industrial development of the country. Shrogen argues that the present issue had been studied carefully during the past century, yet today, environmental problems need more stringent solutions. Thus, it is important to provide immediate measures and improve the existing laws. In order to reduce the problem of environmental pollution in China, it is necessary to analyze cultural background of the country as an aspect of Chinese Studies, as well as consider the impact of the economic situation on the environment. In this respect, the government should enhance such measures as legal mechanisms to convince companies to reduce emissions and develop domestic programs providing bonuses which can motivate their industries to use more safe facilities.

It is also imperative to develop measures that can be implemented to reduce the level of emissions. This is because researchers indicate that such measures emphasize the importance of using modern facilities and legislating new laws that can help in environmental conservation. Besides, the Chinese government should provide domestic programs in order to reduce emissions as well as unite with the international partners in order to develop new common world solutions and improve the present programs. No wonder, according to Lemonick, “the State Environmental Protection Administration planned to introduce 200 factories with clean facilities and address efforts aimed at environmental preservation’’. In addition, highly developed economy inherent in China and depicted in Chinese Studies can help in developing financial muscles of the country to deal with environmental issues. However, this process might have some negative environmental effects that affect not only China, but other parts of the world. Nevertheless, cultural and economic aspects cause an imbalance between the government and business. Although both of these categories consider the current problems and attempt to provide initiatives, the problem of air and water pollution has not been solved and it is impossible to predict when positive changes will occur (Khan and Yardley 71). In a nutshell, Chinese Studies are instrumental in offering an understanding that there is a co-existential reality that culture cannot be isolated from governmental policies and environmental preservation policy-intervention programs.

Study Background: Culture and Environment

As it is mentioned elsewhere in this paper, Chinese Studies provide greater insights into Chinese Culture (Shrogen 68). Indeed, culture has been identified as one of the factors that environmentalists from all over the world consider while dealing with environment as a social construct. Religious values, practices, and traditions have not only been linked to environmental degradation but also its management, preservation and how environmental matters are handled by different cultures across the world. Beyond this, culture is linked to how people choose environmental care systems, icons and choices to adopt. According to Shrogen “environmental preservation influences expectations and perceptions’’ (Shrogen 13). Often, this is in relation to a group’s cultural behavior and attitudes based on beliefs and religious norms. Thus, Chinese culture is one of the areas which should be seen to be instrumental in environmental preservation.

On the whole, cultural elements influence people’s thinking and provide a broad framework for solving issues including environmental matters (Shrogen 68). Shrogen believes that “sophisticated traditional value systems, norms and behavioral patterns including folklore, traditional medicine, herbs and belief systems establish the manner in which people respond to environmental issues’’ (Shrogen 68). The Chinese are not exceptions as they perceive the environment and its degradation or preservation practices through cultural eyes. It is, for example, fundamental in their definition of the environment, and illness associated with it, and the need for its care and support (Khan and Yardley 71). In conclusion, Shrogen’s view of culture seems to be “a view of the world, a set of values, beliefs and traditions which are handed from one generation to the next’’ (83). This relates to the environment.

How then does the cultural phenomenon influence how Chinese treat the environment and what is the role of Chinese Studies there-in? In Shorgen’s view, to answer this question, ‘‘it is imperative to examine various aspects of culture’’ (Shorgen 69). This implies that one must consider the various tenets of culture illuminated in Chinese Studies and its function in considering how to deal with the Chinese people, how to understand them, their composition as well as their attitude towards governmental policies and the world. For instance, the Chinese are heterogeneous. They include people from the mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, as well as South East Asian countries. These groups portray different linguistic, social, economic and political diversities. Overall, however, their cultural beliefs have notions on the environment and its role.

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For example, huge forests are still considered to have some mystery by most Chinese. According to them, degrading the environment without a cause makes the offender guilty, and some curse, ancestral spirit or otherwise mystery may befall him/her. As a result, he/she can suffer misfortune (Freedman and Jaggi 4). Thus, the Chinese have a number of cultural patterns which influence their choice and decisions regarding the kinds of environmental management measures and systems they choose. Because Chinese people tend to communicate differently from Americans, their approach to issues regarding the environment and debate about it, is less personalized and does not involve ‘conflict’. These communication challenges and cultural patterns sometimes determine how the Chinese choose how they can willingly seek environmental management strategies such as reduction of air pollution (Freedman and Jaggi 6). The contention, it thus, seems is tailored around weaving governmental policies and environmental approach mechanisms woven in Chinese communication cultural standards.

Culture, Government and Air pollution

The measures provided by Chinese government help in improving the process of environmental preservation. However, it is necessary to develop more consistent and diverse methods that accrue in Chinese Studies. These should consider the economic, cultural, and other social characteristics of Chinese people. According to Carrel, “the government ought to craft policies and laws that aid companies to reduce pollution’’ (Carrel 43). This means that they should develop the legislative policies which can convince companies to reduce emissions. This, in totality, implies developing domestic programs, including bonuses which can motivate industries to use more safe facilities.

Moreover, it is important to carefully analyze issues like energy independence. R. Bryce authoritatively asserts that “energy independence is the key moment of development for different countries’’ (Bryce 305). He provides an example of the United States that is “married to fossil fuels” (Bryce 305). On the basis of this analogy, he contends that China as a country can be considered as an example of energy independent economy (Bryce (305). S. Carrell reinforces this when he cites the words of Al Gore who supposes that the causes of environmental problems in China can be found in the overwhelming carbon emissions (Carrel 43-44). Indeed, based on statistics provided by the Blacksmith Institute, China is one of the countries with the most polluted environment that is caused by unregulated work of industries (Lee and Wauchope 45). For example, air pollution leads to high risk of respiratory and skin diseases and cancer. Besides, according to statistics provided by the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning published in 2003, over “300,000 people die each year from ambient air pollution, mostly of heart diseases and cancer” due to negligence (Kahn and Yardley). The World Bank further confirms that the total death range now is approximately 750,000 people a year (Kahn and Yardley). All these shows how environmental preservation is important, yet measures developed are not holistic and are devoid of cultural aspects.

Indeed, when one considers the pitfalls and strengths of different accords developed to deal with the environment, the most immediate inadequacy should be linked to culture related policies. The way forward would be to single out how cultural conservation aspects can be slotted into some of these treaties. According to Golub and Markndaya ‘’the Kyoto protocol entails measures that are a mark of importance’’ (Golub and Markndaya 9. This means that it signifies essential advantages. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which is its aspect is designed to influence the developed countries and economies in transition (categorized as Annex 1) to invest in projects which reduce emissions at low-costs in the developing countries and facilitate technology transfer. Inherently, this allows the developed countries to adhere to it, while at the same time pursuing their objectives and not stifling their economies (Golub and Markndaya 9). As a market oriented measure, CDM rides on cost effectiveness in cutting gas emissions and has approved projects, particularly building ones (UNEP 08). This way, KP mandate does not hamper the growth of the non-annex countries (developing nations). It aims to significantly reduce GHG emission and still supports developing countries’ economies and industrialization processes (Golub and Markndaya 29). Notably, the Chinese policy on housing should perhaps be enhanced in a manner that is not stifling economies. In a nutshell, taking such advantages narrows on environmental preservation loopholes.

The problem that remains is the poor appreciation of culture in relation to environmental preservation. In the article As China Roars Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes, the authors emphasize on the lack of understanding of environmental problems by the Chinese government in relation to culture and economy. Although every country in its history goes through this problem as a result of economic and industrial growth, Chinese do not seem to take stalk. Kahn and Yardley capture this when they assert that: ‘‘….just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents” (Kahn and Yardley 67).

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The authors argue that the increase in the number of health problems in the country such as cancer, heart diseases, and skin diseases is associated with environmental pollution. This is on point since pollution impacts the quality of food products leading to the health problems. The authors further analyze the work of the Communist Party in China and its capability to manage the current problems considering the modern processes and particularly measures taken before the Olympic Games that took place in Beijing in 2008 (Carrell 16). UNEP reports that a number of companies had to close illegal coal mines and reduce the level of polluting gases (UNEP 17). The problem of the air pollution was not solved and numerous athletes and visitors of the Olympic Games alluded that air in Beijing was poorly cleaned. Thus, culture remains a bridge to curtailing environmental problems.

While other programs have been developed, full implementation and achievement remains elusive. In the article Green Giant: Beijing’s crash program for clean energy, Osnos observes that green cultural programs of the country were developed in order to reduce the emissions and increase the use of technologies that preserve the environment. The only pitfall in his opinion is that the Chinese programs do not demonstrate positive effects. It would be incorrect to cite the absoluteness of those measures. Nevertheless, it is too early to announce any positive changes. According to Osnos Goldwind, Science and Technology Company is a part of the 863 Program that “operates a plant and a laboratory in a cluster of high-tech companies in an outlying district of Beijing” (Osnos 44). This program is created in order to develop the so-called E-Town in the Chinese capital and provide more effective protecting measures (Osnos 44). All these measures point to government relationship to environmental conservation and allow for an opportunity to improve them, particularly by first understanding them in relation to Chinese people.

On the basis of the foregoing argument, this is where Chinese Studies come in. Indeed, taking into consideration assertions by T. Friedman that ‘‘it is possible to develop the solutions of improvement of the current situation’’ (292), nothing is insurmountable. One of the major steps that Chinese Studies should factor in is to make people “aware of the energy-climate problems and the role of governmental policies and cultural patterns in them” (Freedman and Jaggi 292). The understanding fits into what Limerick’s analysis of climatic models reflects as workable solutions including the ways of reducing CO2 emissions as a social construct (Lemonick 287). Such ideas help in understanding the measures that can be helpful regarding the current situation in China with a focus on policies and culture.

Conclusion

A number of conclusions can be drawn in this paper. On the whole, the role of Chinese Studies in environmental preservation cannot be underestimated. It offers insights which are crucial for understanding Chinese Culture, government policies, and the existing gaps and dilemmas which should be bridged in preserving the environment. The measures provided by the Chinese government help in improving the process of preservation of the environment. It is necessary to develop more answers and holistic solutions depicted in Chinese Studies which illuminate the economic, cultural, political and social characteristics of China and the Chinese people at large. The government should develop legislative measures and awareness-raising tools that are responsive to this cause.

The inherent connection between the environment and culture is indisputable. It is more apparent in policy-intervention measures to reduce air pollution in China. For the Chinese people, culture affects thoughts and the choices they make. Environmentalist should thus be vigilant in dealing with different cultural dynamics and environmental policies. In China, apart from understanding their culture, it is important to factor in some other aspects such as engaging in community organizations and environmental protection agencies which understand the Chinese culture, and to conduct campaigns and outreach programs in schools and religious institutions. Beyond these, despite recreational activities and programs that are based on cultural diversity, requirements and community needs should be considered as a step towards solving air pollution as well as other environmental issues.

While it is has been easy to launch harsh criticisms on environmental conservation measures, one ought to critically examine the mandate of culture associated policies, its achievements and limitations in context. It is, perhaps, a better context upon which issues such as GHG emissions associated with global climate change can be sufficiently examined for creating international structures with stipulations.

Works Cited

Bryce, Robert. “Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 11/E. Rosen. US: Longman, 2011. Print.

Carrell, Severin. “Al Gore: Clean proof that climate change causes extreme weather.” Guardian.co.uk, 2011. Web.

Freedman, Mehsack and Jaggi, Bonn. Global Warming Disclosures: Impact of Kyoto Protocol Across Countries. Journal of International Financial Management and Accounting, 22, 2011 (46-90).

Friedman, Tomas L. “205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 11/E. Ed. Laurence M. Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. US: Longman, 2011. Print.

Golub, Abdeck, and Markndaya Akea. Modeling Environment-Improving Technological Innovations under Uncertainty. New York: Tyler and Francis, 2009. Print.

Kahn, Joseph, and Jim Yardley. “As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes.” The New York Times, 2007. Web.

Lee, Cathy, and Samantha Wauchope. The Importance of Sacred Natural Sites for Biodiversity Conservation. France: UNESCO, 2003. Web.

Lemonick, Michael D. “Global Warming: Beyond the Tipping Point.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 11/E. Ed. Laurence M. Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. US: Longman, 2011. Print.

Osnos, Evan. “Green Giant: Beijing’s crash program for clean energy.” The New Yorker, 2009. Web.

Shogren, John. The benefits and costs of the Kyoto Protocol. Washington DC: AEIM Press, 1999. Print.

UNEP. The Kyoto Protocol: The Clean Development Mechanism, and the Building and Construction Sector. UNEP/Earth Print, 2008. Print.

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