Our World One Dream | 我们的世界梦。
If Xi Jinping is the Captain Planet who has taken over the bridge of spaceship Earth as many think, then I would have a few recommendations for policy priorities during the next five years.
- Transform the China Dream | 中国梦 into a World Dream 世界梦 and make clear to everybody that we have only one world, which is all our home.
- Change the Chinese Socialist Core Value | 中国社会主义核心价值观propaganda to a World Pragmatist Core Value | 世界实用主义核心价值观propaganda
- Transition from an industrial growth system to an integral growth system, which creates abundance instead of scarcity.
- Initiate a landslide transformation from an industrial education model to an integral education model, setting Chinese students free from the competitive drudgery of excessively acquiring cognitive skills and making space and time for the playful acquisition of collaborative social skills.
- Convert all military forces into planeteers to clean up the debris already created and prevent future degradation of natural resources.
- Allocate national defense and homeland security spending to environmental protection.
- Change slogans from Happy National Day – Wishing the Motherland a Future of Unlimited Bliss to Happy World Day – Wishing our Planet a Future of Unlimited Bliss.
- Take the lead with implementing a universal income based on social and environmental contributions to the global ecosystem.
Now, some readers – if they have made it so far – might think I am nuts; but be assured I am all sober and my recommendations to Captain Xi do only reflect the facts of a world in peril. Pax Americana created after WWII abundance for much of the Western world, but at the expense of the developing world and the environment. Pax Sinica is set to develop abundance for the sinocentric world at the expense of the Western world and the environment, but at a much larger and thus threatening scale considering the increase in consumption per capita and roughly one billion more human beings being added to this planet each decade, in particular in Asia and Africa, China’s second continent.
Damien Ma and William Adams captured this resource driven perspective well in the title of their 2013 book In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China's Ascent in the Next Decade. What they describe is a China which is at the center of an economic system which circulates around commodity and utility streams geared towards profit maximization; a system which in the words of yet another economist, F. E. Schumacher, does not operate as if people or other forms of life mattered. The world will thus continue to spin driven by the same profit driven economic system which the US has globalized; only the decision makers at the very top have changed.
Lucy Hornby tracks down the global squid fishing industry, which has its global center, where, you guess, in China, yes, in a Zhejiang coastal city called Zhoushan, not far from Ningbo. And she does so because squid is the latest and one of the last resources in the oceans to be exploited by humans after many maritime populations like mackerel or hake have collapsed in the past few decades, and many more are doomed to follow, because of the Chinese elite’s craving for political pole position and the world’s hunger for fish.
Zhoushan and Qingdao are the two largest Chinese and global fishing industry locations; Zhoushan accounting for 70% of the current global squid caught and Qingdao being home to the world’s largest seafood processing industry. Once rich waters of the Chinese coast have been emptied in the 90s and Chinese fishermen have to sail ever further if they don’t want to return empty handed, creating a vicious cycle of having to haul back increasing amounts of fish to pay for the increasing costs of long journeys to distant waters. What strikes me though as most important in Hornby’s account is the clear connection of all three industry sectors and the impact of a short sighted, profit focused, commodity based economic system on the entire value chain of a national economy, which shapes the 21st century like no other.
Although the act of fishing extracts natural resources from water bodies, it is considered part of the primary sector, i.e. agriculture. The impact of the primary sector on the secondary and tertiary sector is far from obvious, in particular for Western observers, who are used to less than two percent of the labor force being active in agriculture. Despite China still employing about 40% of its labor force in the primary sector, Hornby’s account shows incisively that our economic systems depend entirely on natural resources and cannot be sustained without them.
The excessive extraction of natural resources from oceans has led according to Greenpeace to critical conditions in more than 90% of commercially exploited fish stock. Despite this obvious depletion of natural maritime resources, the commodity based economic system which China has adopted in the 1980s, forces the central and provincial governments to subsidize the fishing industry in order to sustain employment in related secondary and tertiary sector industries; instead of slowing down, the exploitation is stepped up in the name of national stability, i.e. greed for power and profit.
China goes even so far as to declare distant water fishing a strategic industry, because it deems itself as new global hegemon entitled to exploit the entire planet’s international waters. Conflicts over the Diaoyu (Chinese for fishing) Islands, which erupted with Japan in 2012 and have been only the start of unavoidable conflicts with a nation that has to fuel its insatiable economic system on a scale that mankind has never seen before.
These take aways clarify why it is Captain Xi’s responsibility to initiate within this five-year legislation period a transition towards a new economic model which is not based on profit and scarcity, but on value and abundance; an economic model which I call in association with Ken Wilber’s integral metatheory, the integral model, because
- it does not exclude, but includes all spheres of the global ecosystem;
- it takes externalities into account and it thus based on deep system awareness;
- it perceives the diversity of human resources as the most important natural resources to manage a turnaround and focuses on these rather than on commodities;
- and it includes externalities into market prices.
Hornby’s FT article does also allow conclusions further down the value chain. Provincial and municipal subsidies for large scale infrastructure projects like Zhoushan’s multibillion CNY fishing harbor, national subsidies to the shipbuilding and steel industry, and the imminent threat to lay off literally millions of workers in the coal mining industry, do reveal that the Chinese economy is – like all industrial growth systems - sick to the marrow and grows only at the expense of the global ecosystem. Never before though did a national economy reach scope and scale of China’s and never before was a single economy of this size connected to a global market of mindless consumers. That’s why 21st century dynamics are reason to worry; and that’s why both top down as well as bottom up transformation is required urgently.
China’s energy policy should give us particular reason to worry, because it is one which sets its own and thus the global economy on track for the next 20 to 50 years and thus entails Beijing’s most far sighted measures. China’s current reliance on coal, accounting for 2/3 of its national energy generation and its initiated shift to nuclear energy, which the central government labels as renewable (!), clearly indicate that there is no intention to collaborate with ROW in terms of energy security. A focus on nuclear energy reflects in any nation a deeply centralized and nationalist governance attitude, since it is based on the very premise of being independent from others, while a focus on solar energy reflects the visualization of a transnational future, where the sun, as our original source of energy is harvested and distributed globally.
A quick look into the history books tells us that a joint energy security is one if not the central pillar for regional peace. One might today look critical upon the European Union for having stalled its development due to bureaucratic futilism, but we shall not forget that it is the result of a concerted effort to avoid the recurrence of destruction WWII brought upon Europe. The EU was erected on the basis of the 1951 Treaty of Paris, which entailed the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). French post WWII foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a union of energy and heavy industry commodity supply as a central measure to guarantee regional peace.
Follow up reading:
- In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China's Ascent in the Next Decade by Damien Ma and William Adams
- China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard French
- China’s Asian Dream: Empire Building Along the Silk Road by Tom Miller
- China’s Asia Dream by Knut Wimberger
- A bigger catch: China’s fishing fleet hunts new ocean targets by Lucy Hornby
- 5 Problems with China’s Distant Water Fishing Industry by Li Shuo
Greenpeace Briefing on Distant Water Fishing
- Saving the Oceans short documentary on ARTE program Mapping the World
- World Nuclear Power Association on Nuclear Power in China
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers by Knut Wimberger