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Ecological Wisdom of the Ages

Feb 16, 2011

Longstanding Chinese ideals, which seek balance between man and nature, could help humans find a better way of living, writes Pan Yue, China’s vice minister for environmental protection.

Traditional Chinese thought not only calls for the unity of man and nature, but provides the tools that allowed China to practice this principle for thousands of years. This is of great significance in the quest to solve today’s financial and ecological crises.

For the past century, China has studied the west and followed the western path of industrialisation. And while three decades of reform and opening up have brought astounding economic achievements, China has also concentrated into those 30 years levels of pollution it took the west a century to create.

China must not continue to follow in the footsteps of developed nations. Instead, it should take time re-examine western industrial civilisation and its own cultural traditions.

Western industrialism has its own characteristics and patterns. It is profit-driven and anthropocentric, runs on modern capitalism and is embodied in cities built on industry, commerce and finance. It has created great riches, but it has also done everything possible to shift its class, economic and social conflicts overseas.

However, industrial nations have found that they can export any kind of crisis except for one – the environmental crisis. Hurricanes hit both south-east Asia and New Orleans and rising sea levels will inundate both the small island nations of the Pacific and New York.

Pan Yue is vice minister at China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. This article was first published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily.

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