SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Beyond Ideologies: China’s Experience in Confronting the Global Environmental Crisis

China debate

Date: 11 May 2017Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 11 May 2017Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Annual Lecture


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The China Debate 2017


The second largest economy and ‘the factory of the world’ China occupies a pivotal place in the global efforts to confront the environmental challenges. This takes on new currency as the current president of largest economy and the world’s only remaining superpower, Donald Trump, is sceptical of climate change and unwilling to take a leading role in the search for solutions.  If all eyes are not yet on China, they may well do in the coming few years. 

China probably suffers more from environmental challenges than any other country at the moment. Just step off an aeroplane in any major Chinese city on a winter’s day and one gets a sense of the magnitude of the problem. The scale and intensity of the challenges are now widely recognized, and its government and people are focused on the need to confront them.  It is therefore no wonder that China is not only the largest consumer of fossil fuel and emitter of greenhouse gases but also a leading investor in and producer of sustainable energy.  China’s case highlights starkly the dilemma between choosing fast development and growth on the one hand and sustainability on the other. What has happened in China is not exceptional in an important sense.  In general terms Europe, North America and Japan went through the same path decades ago. India is closely following China’s footsteps, and other countries that seek to catch up in development are next in line.  We now know this path is not sustainable.  A better alternative must be found. It can only be found if countries of different ideological persuasion, political system and stage of development leave their differences behind and work pragmatically together.

Focusing on China’s experience and approach, this debate seeks to use the case of China to enable us reflect on what the key issues are in confronting environment challenges, hopefully in a more pre-emptive way.  No doubt some of the issues that apply in China are specific but most are common problems that any government striving to end poverty of its people through rapid development needs to confront. By discussing and debating the case of China, wider lessons can be drawn as the world looks to make sustainable development a reality rather than tolerate it as an oxymoron.

  • Moderator: Isabel Hilton (Chinadialogue)
  • Tom Burke (Co-founding Director and Chairman, E3G London Office)
  • Pransenjit Duara (Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies, Duke University)
  • Shuo Li (Greenpeace, Beijing)
  • Jennifer Turner (Director, China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center)

Speakers biographies

This event is generously supported by China Everbright International Limited.

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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