Monday, June 18, 2007

Paul Merton and China's Boom or Bust

It's not often you'll catch me watching the British TV channel Five, but comedian Paul Merton's travelogue on the more intriguing aspects of the huge country that is China was a real treat. The last episode on Shanghai was more traditional (no robot rickshaws or eating dog), but one sentence, uttered by a local millionaire during a game of golf stunned me. He said:

"If everyone in China read newspapers like the British do, there would be no trees left in the world".

"That can't be true" was my initial response, but there's no doubt that as China's economy booms, the world is going to have to support many millions more people at a level that we in the West have become accustomed to and may even consider 'modest'. I always feel that when this is discussed in the press there is a hint of "those pesky Chinese will destroy the world" about the reporting, but they've got just as much right to resources as we have.

On the other hand, the one time I have been to China, we passed village after village where every hut had a solar hot water system on the roof. With a number of 'eco-cities' being built, there is an opportunity for China to boom green.

Let's hope they do for all our sakes, but the flip side of this should be the West starting to ease our pressure on the planet to give the Chinese a little elbow room.

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