China, Rostow, Global Warming, the West

As China Goes, So Goes Global Warming, an article in today’s NYT, raises some important issues. China, as the article points out, is only following the tried and true method: Rapid industrialization at all costs, a path developed nations took in the 20th century:

The established superpower arose riding a wave of fossil-fueled prosperity. The emerging one, [China] sitting on a wealth of coal, sees few reasons not to follow suit; after all, it has only just caught its wave with India and others in hot pursuit.

At this point it is important to understand what “following suit” means. It is more than just “getting theirs.” It involves a path and mode of development. (I have no quarrel with the desire or the ends, just with the means and methods.)

Walter Rostow, a staunch anti-communist and economic advisor to Lyndon Johnson, provided the underpinning for China’s present theorists on the necessary stages of economic growth, of the movement from an agrarian to an industrial society. (For an overview of China and Rostow, see here.)

Olliver Mallick offers an interesting explanation of Rostow’s The Five Stages of Economic Growth: A non-communist manifesto in his A Development Theory Rostow’s Five Stage Model of Development and Ist [sic] Relevance in Globalization

Therefore, western countries recommend modernization as the imitation of the western experience, which they believe, would produce successful societies in the current developing countries.

Globalization implies a process of intensification of worldwide economic as well as cultural and social relations. It is an integration of markets, business sectors and production systems which are the results of powerful protagonists. These participants are transnational companies and, in some cases, nation states.

But, as Mallick points out, there is opposition to globalization at the ‘grassroots’ level,

paying attention to marginalized topics [that focus] on gender, nutrition, human rights and especially environment.

Mallick’s idea of environmental protest is Green Peace, which, he ironically points out, makes use of tools modernization–and therefore globalization–made possible, i.e., mass communication.

Apart from that, resistance is constructed as the opposite of ‘big is beautiful project and so against the establishment. In other words, these forms of resistance [such as Green Peace] are ‘non-capitalistic.’

Now, while I find Mallick’s description interesting, think back to the NYT’s article.

In building one coal burning plant every week to feed its voracious energy needs China already has become the number emitter of CO2, surpassing the U.S. It is no accident that the U.S. and China have resisted efforts to address global warming. Both benefit locally for their power consummation. Morever, our multinationals are China’s export platform.

Like or not, the present cost of cheap goods and the present mode of globalization are intimately connected to global warming.

The question is: Will the West put the necessary funds into alternate energy and share that knowledge with developing nations? “Sharing” here means really sharing; not just making it expensive. No more games.

BinBin Jiang, a research associate in energy and development at Stanford University sees similar opportunities in creating an efficient infrastructure for China’s exploding midsize cities. “That’s where you determine if you are going to leapfrog or go along the old Western path,” she said.

China has to be persuaded to abandon the old Western path, the one praised by economists from the left and the right. The only way to do that may well be to set aside the old capitalistic and nationalistic notions of Darwinian competition, join forces against the rampant pollution and warming that threatens all of us.