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Discussion > Fantasy China

Just read this at the end of the BBC report Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels, triggered by the 400ppm reading at Mauna Loa:

China's plan for 2011-2015 includes reversing the damage done by 30 years of growth and increasing the use of renewable energy.

So 30 years of growth has only done damage, not saved any lives, we can only assume. More damage than the regime that preceded it for 36 odd years, we can only assume. But, remarkably, half that of 30 years of damage has already been reversed in 2-3 years, we can only assume. At least partly through increasing the use of renewable energy, which must have caused a drastic reduction in China's carbon emissions in that short time, we can only assume.

We live in a world of miracles. Pity that Mao had to depart the scene but we're finally making up for the damage caused by the growth he so manfully prevented for so many years, through famine, mass murder, crony communism and any other such means.

There's a better game than fantasy football in town. But it seems you can only play it at the end of an article on CO2. None of this fantastical garbage would be taken seriously in any other context. Why?

(Please folks: this isn't about the 400ppm milestone per se, but this extraordinary sentence about China that caps the article off. If we can manage to get our heads around it. I'm not sure I can.)

May 11, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

@Richard Drake
- That China fantasy idea can be traced back to Tim Flannery's "Australia climate commission report says China is going green" which I mention in my thread here : BBC "Constructed Reality" Watch
- In addition to my info about big solar bankruptcies, Tom Holland also debunks it in the South China Morning Post Story : china-green-energy-leader-dont-make-me-laugh

May 11, 2013 at 12:23 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

stew: Thanks for those two references. I've only just returned to BH and haven't much time for this now. I was also influenced here by Peter Lilley's excellent comments about our post-imperial fantasies regarding China and by my own ruminations on Thatcher and peace last month. For me Pugwash was imbued with and promulgated the Fantasy Soviet Block of its time and now we have this. But I think this is even more off beam. I still need to collect my thoughts but I'm grateful for the feedback. Watch this space - probably later this week.

May 12, 2013 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard: thanks for drawing our attention to that extraordinary statement by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins.

China’s attitude to and actions regarding CAGW are arguably the two most important factors in current climate change politics. It must be almost unbearably embarrassing to CAGW protagonists such as the Grantham Institute that the world’s second largest, probably fastest growing and potentially most powerful economy (a position achieved during those "damaging" 30 years) doesn’t seem to believe that their overriding obsession is an important issue and, despite all their loud rhetoric, is allowing its huge GHG emissions to continue for the foreseeable future. What must be even worse is the knowledge – if they’re willing to face it – that China was the prime mover in ensuring the humiliating defeat of the West’s pretensions at the Copenhagen conference; a conference described by Rupert Darwall** as one where the losing side “lost more comprehensively than at any international conference in modern history where the outcome had not been decided beforehand by force of arms”.

After Copenhagen, there’s no going back: global regulation of GHG emissions isn’t going to happen. And China is responsible.

It’s an alarmist nightmare come true. So, in a desperate attempt to persuade themselves otherwise, CAGW protagonists seize on any snippet of evidence suggesting it might not be. And China – content to keep the charade alive – is happy to oblige, conjuring up, as you put it, a fantasy China that bears no relation to reality. Hence a substantial expenditure on renewables is, as Tom Holland points out, contributing only about 2% to power generation compared to 82% by the dreaded coal.

Sad really.

** See the last paragraph of Chapter 31 of his book The Age of Global Warming.

May 14, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Boris' bruv is an Environmental Management Consultant for PWC (on the 1-10 Jiminy scale of profession appreciation this ranks as -1). Here is is puff piece profile: 'I nearly killed Boris Johnson with an air rifle’

“China is investing $1.3 trillion in seven strategic sub-sectors, including clean energy technology and new energy cars and biotechnology. But in this country, innovative businesses can’t get finance!” he cries. “Banks are risk-averse because they have to look after little old ladies’ pensions, and venture capitalists want to see a proven track record before they will get involved, so there’s a 'valley of death’ where exciting businesses are languishing for want of backing.”
Johnson’s environmental activism is firmly, shrewdly rooted in economics and the creation of “producer-led growth” rather than in a consumer-led economy fuelled by cheap credit.

He is a champagne socialist as well... "producer led growth"? Producer led growth led to the Trabant staying the same for 30 years. Producer-led growth just means the state, or the global world greenie super power.

May 14, 2013 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

If further evidence were needed to demonstrate China’s intransigence regarding any proposal that it limit its GHG emissions (it’s not – its position is already clear), it would be found in the outcome of a meeting of senior officials in Bonn only two weeks ago. As this report says:

Attempts to reach agreement have foundered above all on a failure to agree on the contribution developing countries should make to curbing the industrial emissions responsible for global warming.


Chinese chief negotiator Su Wei … said China could not impose caps on its rising emissions because it needed time to focus on economic growth, despite U.S. calls for tougher action by Beijing.

That doesn’t do much to support Brian Hoskins’s weird belief that China is planning to take “great strides” towards a green future.

May 14, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin: thanks. Part of what bothered me about the article was that after the ridiculousness of Hoskins the BBC author only added fuel to the fire with their conclusion. Unlike so many situations where our state broadcaster rightly gives a balancing or opposing point of view. But here Hoskins and the Beeb seem to be singing from exactly the same, entirely fantastical hymn-sheet.

Jiminy: good to see you also. The instincts that led to the Trabant are alive and well. As before, I intend to come back to this shortly.

May 15, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


While browsing for context on the execrable Rabett Run blog, I came across this:

Obviously, the fact that it comes from someone who talks about himself in the third-person, with a winsome turn of phrase that makes my flesh creep and toes curl, makes it dificult to evaluate. But he seems to assume that China inends in all good faith to curb emissions. I guess that actions speak louder than words.

May 15, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Further to my posts above, there's interesting evidence strongly suggesting that China is not just interested in pursuing its economic development whatever the cost - or indeed in tweaking the noses of those Western nations that, relatively recently (from China's perspective), have patronised and bullied the world's oldest civilisation (although I expect it enjoys that) - but that it is not persuaded by the CAGW hypothesis.

The best known evidence for this is Xie Zhenhua's comment at a developing economies' summit in 2010. Mr Xie, vice-chairman of China's national development and reforms commission, observed that, although mainstream scientific opinion blames emissions from industrial development for climate change, China is not convinced. Here's the quotation:

There are disputes in the scientific community. We have to have an open attitude to the scientific research. There's an alternative view that climate change is caused by cyclical trends in nature itself. We have to keep an open attitude. It is already a solid fact that climate is warming. The major reasons for this climate change is the unconstrained emissions produced by the developed countries in the process of industrialisation. That's the mainstream view [but] there are other views. Our attitude is an open attitude.

That's important enough. But I suggest far more telling evidence is found in this Washington Times article about China's approach to climate negotiations. First here's the opening paragraph:

Global warming does not worry China, a fact that partially accounts for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s shabby treatment of President Obama at the Copenhagen climate conference last month.

But here are two further extracts (referring significantly to an article in Beijing’s Science Times of September 7 2009 by Ding Zhongli – “China’s most prestigious geophysicist and VP of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, described as ‘the final word on climate science for the Chinese Communist Party"):
American politicians would be wise to remember that, while there may be a “robust” (but not unanimous) consensus among American scientists that human-source carbon dioxide emissions are the major cause of global warming, there is no such view in China. Indeed, so far as Mr. Ding is aware, “the idea that there is a significant correlation between temperature increases and concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide lacks reliable evidence in science.”
Given the deep skepticism of the Chinese Academy of Science’s top climatologist and the prominence accorded his views in the Academy’s publications, it is clear that no one in the Chinese Politburo is truly anxious about the climatic consequences of global warming.

Here's an extract from an abridged English translation of the Science Times article:

… there is no solid scientific evidence to strictly correlate global temperature rise and CO2 concentrations. Some geologists believe that global temperature is related to solar activities and glacial periods. At least human activity is not the only factor to cause the global temperature increase. Up to now not a single scientist has figured out the weight ratio of each factor on global temperature change.

However, the massive propaganda “human activity induced the global temperature increase” has been accepted by the majority of the society in some countries, and it has become a political and diplomatic issue. Why do the developed countries put an arguable scientific problem on the international negotiation table? The real intention is not for the global temperature increase, but for the restriction of the economic development of the developing countries, and for keeping their own advantageous positions.

That last sentence is especially telling.

I wonder if Brian Hoskins and the BBC are even aware of all this.

May 15, 2013 at 6:35 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

If you want to get this question out to a larger audience, you might like to try commenting on a relevant article at
The site is a member of the Guardian Environment Network, which describes it as “A groundbreaking bilingual site allowing China and the world to 'discuss the environment'”.
Part of the fun lies in the fact that if your comment is published, they translate it into Chinese for you.

May 16, 2013 at 8:46 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Ah, another founder-member of my secret society the Carbonari turns up. Oops, I wasn't meant to say that. As you were. Secret handshakes to manual.

Very interesting suggestion Geoff. My brother, sister-in-law and (clever and delightful) niece could check the translation to boot. (Brit marries Cantonese and settles in Hong Kong.) Having said which I feel distinctly in the shallows here for I'm no Sinologist. Indeed, after coining the phrase I was interested to learn that there's a book called The China Fantasy. I instinctively expect the thesis, as described on Amazon, to be an important corrective to wishful western thinking but I obviously need to read that and other things before saying much more.

I'd like to kick this around more in this space, if others are willing to continue to chip in. Let me add one more controversial thing for now.

We all know that the fossil fuel company funding conspiracy theory to explain away and denigrate the many and varied climate dissidents in the world is bunk. But what of CTs that might explain CAGW itself?

Steve McIntyre has pointed, very mildly, every now and then, to the nuclear power industry's interest and involvement. He's not what I'd call a big conspiracist, is Steve. But I feel sure this is more viable as an explanation than some.

Another is about increasing the power of China relative to the old democracies of the West.

Now we all know from Professor Lew that CTs, except for his own, are a lethal trap but I thought I'd mention these two anyway. You don't have to buy the "planned for the start" versions of course. It can easily be ad-hoc, opportunistic plotting, as the last sentence Robin quoted from the Chinese themselves might suggest. Almost all plotters think, or at least claim they think, that they are counteracting another, opposite conspiracy. But CAGW being taken up in the West and not in China suits the new rulers in Beijing down to the ground. And there may be a fellow-traveler element in the West at the very least. There normally is.

One doesn't have to buy any of that, I reiterate. But Hoskins and the BBC have here created a puzzle. We may just be seeing motivated reasoning, as Dr Lew would say. Whatever. I'm glad Peter Lilley's new brief is foreign affairs.

May 16, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Ah... The Grey uniformity that is modern China....

May 16, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Registered Commenterbh3x2

The Chinese Communist Party exists only to continue existing and to stay in power, so to stop the population revolting they have been expanding the economy with massive investment to keep everyone employed at higher levels of income. Now they have vast populations in cities choking on the smog hence the change to reduce emissions, this plus the need to get power for the rural inland areas without vast infrastructure of powerlines is why they are going green.

Got nothing to do with CO2 but lots to do with soot.

May 16, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Just came across a comment I made a year ago at

I had a look at the two Chinese groups which are members of the Guardian Environment Network.
At China Dialogue “where China and the world discuss the environment”, one of the 8 members of the executive board is Chinese, and she makes TV programmes for the BBC and writes for the Guardian. (Sir David King, Sir Crispin Tickell and Lord Patten are on the advisory board).
The other group, “Green Earth Volunteers” is financed by, among others, the Rockefeller Foundation and the French Embassy. Their mission is to “serve as a vehicle for grassroots public participation through encouraging volunteerism” and “support environmental journalism in China.”
Very worthy, and a step up from exporting opium, but it doesn’t sound very homegrown.

May 21, 2013 at 9:25 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff, I broadly agree with you but as far as exporting opium goes, I think Britain has some "history" in this matter. History that is not necessarily a cause to be proud of.

May 22, 2013 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

"Michael Hart". They're still pissed off about the Opium Wars, which should have really been called the Tea Wars, because that's what it was about. The Chinese would only take Chinese coin for their tea, so the British sold them Opium to get the coin for the tea. Later on, of course the tea trees were smuggled out of China and growo all over India, and then the rest of the empire where they could flourish. The Chinese still grow and roast the best tea in the world in Hangjou at Jing Long.

The Chinese are transiting from a great history to a great nation on the back of fossil fuels, they are as likely to go green as Chris Patten is to go on a diet. That anybody could imagine the Chinese being morally pushed into doing so by the example set by the UK shows the lamentable state of our education system.

May 22, 2013 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

If the Independent's headline "China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016" (see the link provided by Jiminy Cricket at 8:10 this morning) were accurate, it would indeed - as the Indy says - be "transformational" and "a dramatic change in China's approach to climate change". After all, as I noted above, China was the prime mover in ensuring the humiliating defeat of the West’s pretensions at the Copenhagen conference in 2009. So, if China has truly changed its mind, international climate change politics have suddenly become utterly different - making the prospect of a realistic international Kyoto-style agreement no longer far-fetched.

No wonder Lord Stern and Greenpeace are getting so excited.

But is it true - has China really agreed "to impose carbon targets by 2016"? Are, as Ed Davy puts it, "the tectonic plates of global climate change negotiations ... really shifting"? Well, it's far less certain than the headline suggests. As the Independent itself says,

The proposal to introduce the cap has been made by China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), agency responsible for planning the country's social and economic development. Although the proposal needs to be accepted by China's cabinet, the State Council, for it to be adopted but experts said the agency is extremely influential and is working with a government that appears to be increasingly committed to the environment.

You see - it's a proposal not a decision. Very different. And will the Politburo accept it? And, even if it does, as always with China's approach to its dealings with the West, it will be the small print that really matters. For example, what will be the level of the cap? And what demands will China make in return? And so on.

In any case, don't forget the Reuters article I mentioned above (6:39 PM on May 14). Less than three weeks ago, at the end of a week of climate change talks in Bonn, the Chinese chief negotiator, Su Wei, was reported as saying that "China could not impose caps on its rising emissions because it needed time to focus on economic growth, despite U.S. calls for tougher action by Beijing".

I suspect the Stern/Greenpeace/Davy excitement may be premature.

May 22, 2013 at 6:55 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Completely with you in that regard Robin. Thanks to all for keeping this thread alive, not least China's National Development and Reform Commission :)

May 22, 2013 at 10:52 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Michael Hart
Yes, I know Britain (and France) has a lot not to be proud of with respect to China. My point was ironic, and should have been made more clearly. The Guardian is pushing two Chinese blogs as sources of information which turn out to be Western-financed front organisations. It’s very nineteenth century.
And I wonder what the Chinese make of the Guardian’s strict censorship policy? Here’s an article (in Chinese) which has been widely published in China, but which the Guardian would never publish. (Scroll down to see why).

May 23, 2013 at 7:07 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


I suspect that what might be happening is that it suits China to keep alive the possibility of its one day agreeing to a cap. After all, even the Chinese might find it difficult to say officially that the whole CAGW thing is rubbish - even if that's what they really think: see my comment at 6:35 PM on May 15. And, of course, it's useful to keep the market for solar panels etc. going and to see the West twisting itself into knots over this. So they arrange for hints such as this Indy story (no source is provided) to be spread. And they would be amused, but not surprised, to see the Stern/Greenpeace/Davey team grab it eagerly and without any thought of scepticism.

The bad news for the rest of us is that it gives all those warmist interests every excuse for spinning the whole thing out: no let up in piling on the pressure for increased national GHG reduction programmes. And, of course, it only increases the perceived need for more international conferences. Here's an extract from the Indy article:

Mr Davey said he wants the UK to take a leading part in the global climate change discussions as part of the European negotiating block. However, he said he was concerned that the rise of the climate sceptic Ukip party could drag members of the Tory right in that direction and damage Britain's credibility in debate on global warming.

May 23, 2013 at 7:07 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

The Chinese are masters of diplomacy, and stringing along politicians from other countries with subtle hints is one of their specialities. Meanwhile, Western economies shackle their manufacturing and energy industries with high economic and regulatory barriers, and Chinese exports boom.

A country which is building on average one coal-fired power plant per week is hardly in the grip of an existential crisis about GHGs.

It must take great feats of Oriental impassivity for their negotiators to sit through these meetings where Western idiots agonise about how to send themselves broke, and make China rich, even faster.

May 23, 2013 at 8:16 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I've been searching for something a little more authoritative and detailed supporting that Independent story. I may have found it here. It's an NDRC Notice dated 9 May 2013 - i.e. it's very recent. Here's the introductory paragraph:

Since the State Council proposed targets of the actions to control greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 last November, all regions have taken the initiative to implement the central policies and arrangements. The development of low-carbon industry, construction of low-carbon city, and promotion of low-carbon life are proposed in many areas, and a number of provinces also have applied to our Commission for the development of low-carbon pilot project. To actively explore the practices and experience that can not only promote economic development and improve people’s livelihood, but also combat climate change, reduce carbon intensity and promote green development in China’s rapid development stages of industrialization and urbanization is very necessary. Agreed by the leaders of the State Council, we will organize the development of pilot program on low-carbon provinces and low-carbon cities.
OK, there's a lot of vague "green" sounding stuff there (as there is throughout the document) - but anything about China agreeing "to impose carbon targets by 2016"? Er ... no.

May 23, 2013 at 8:40 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Historically I am reminded of Europe between the wars.

There was no greater user of the word peace than Hitler.

Despite the rewriting of history, you would have met many people supporting Hitler's motives. Any number of people unwittingly furthering his aims in countries around Europe.

Like Geronimo I worked in Hong Kong. I visited mainland China. And until you stand across the border you cannot really understand the place.

The energy of the place, the size, the insularity. I just remember standing in this large city and thinking that was one of many thousands of other cities. Very humbling. The energy and "movement".

May 23, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Jiminy, you are absolutely right about the lack of comprehension most of us have about China.

A while back I helped to host a function for a Chinese government trade delegation - not particularly high-powered, there must be hundreds like them.

They all spoke excellent English. I got chatting to the leader, who was one of the smartest guys I have met. As well as being a top-flight economist, he was interested in contemporary art. He then told me that in his home town (a city of 10 million people that I had never heard of) they are building a 20 acre sculpture park. He waxed enthusiastic about this park, which had just added a Rodin to the collection.

Barring extreme events, they will rule the world before the end of the century, and our self-inflicted economic suicide is just accelerating the process.

May 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna