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Chinese Environmental Perspectives and Policies: Historical Analysis ENVI1100 Environment & Society 17/11/2006 Damian Howells

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Presentation on theme: "Chinese Environmental Perspectives and Policies: Historical Analysis ENVI1100 Environment & Society 17/11/2006 Damian Howells"— Presentation transcript:

1 Chinese Environmental Perspectives and Policies: Historical Analysis ENVI1100 Environment & Society 17/11/2006 Damian Howells ( Room 3.13 Chemistry West

2 Map 1. China Available from:

3 Introduction China is the world’s most populous country –1953 – 582m (approx.) –2000 - 1.3bn Population concentrated in the East (maps 2 & 3) –Eastern half of the country - 47% of total area, 94% population –Western half of the country – 53% of total area, 6% population Caused by a combination of: –Geography, climate, culture

4 Map 2. China population distribution Available from:

5 Map 3. China population density (1995) Population Density 1995 (per km 2 ) Green – 383 Purple – 147 Orange - 51 Source: Cambridge Encyclopaedia of China p. 14

6 Geography (see map 4) The North China Plain was the centre of early Chinese civilisation –Suitable agricultural land in short supply –Concentrated on North China plain –Very fertile due the large quantities of loess deposited by the Yellow River North China plain is susceptible to flooding and drought –Silt in the Yellow River raise the riverbed above the surrounding countryside –Channel frequently changes course –Climate unpredictable

7 Map 4. China (Geographical) Source: Wikpedia (German)

8 Climate Rains dependent on the monsoon from the south –90% of rainfall occurs May-September –Winters are cool and largely dry –Rainfall decreases/less predictable as you move north Summer rains are not reliable/predictable –Strong Siberian anti-cyclone Drought in region of the north China plain –Weak Siberian anti-cyclone results in flooding Monsoon rains travel further north and floods hit the north China plain

9 Rainfall in selected cities of the North China Plain (2000) Total rainfall 2000 – 4714.6mm June, July, August rainfall – 2618mm

10 Source:

11 The Yellow River gets its name from the large amounts of silt it carries Source: Cambridge Encyclopaedia of China p. 43

12 The Yellow River as it enters the sea Source: Cambridge Encyclopaedia of China p. 43

13 Culture Culture Confucianism –Aimed to re-create the “Golden Age” of Chinese civilisation –Constantly looking back at the way things were done in antiquity –Existing patterns of agricultural production strictly adhered to Family unit paramount –Individuals part of the family/wider group The of the group paramount Hierarchy was central to the system –The Emperor the “father of the nation”

14 Culture cont’d Ancestor worship central to folk religion – People tied to their home villages –Barrier to migration –Encouraged large families Descendents to honour you and your ancestors Mandate of Heaven –Emperor judged on ability to manage water resources –Failure taken as withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven and a justification for replacing Emperor –State paid great attention to irrigation schemes and flood defences

15 Causes of Environmental stress in China

16 The People’s Republic of China Chinese Communist Party (CCP) comes to power 1949 –Headed by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) –Programme of radical social and economic reform Demanded complete loyalty to the new regime –Traditional respect for superiors Western-trained scientists/economists were viewed with suspicion –Numerous leading economists/scientists purged during 1950s –Ma Yinchu, western trained economists and President of Beijing University Defended Malthusian laws of population limitations

17 The Great Leap Forward (1958-1960) Launched by Mao 1958 –Unhappy at the slow pace of development –Aimed to surpass UK economy in 15 years Whole nation mobilised –Campaigns run by local Party activists –Commitment seen as proof of loyalty –Real enthusiasm among the general public –Competition promoted by the Government Mao promoted of the idea that man should conquer nature –Foolish old man who moved a mountain –Also reflected in art and literature of the time

18 Increased steel production –Backyard furnaces –Offices/communes/schools/factories all set quotas Increased agricultural production –Large-scale draining of marshes/wetlands –Mountain slopes deforested and terraced –Increased yield per acre Campaign to “Wipe out the four pests” –Officially sanctioned extermination campaigns –Particularly sparrows and rats, but also flies and mosquitoes GLF campaigns included

19 Let’s attack here! Drive away the mountain God Break down the stone walls To brig out those 200 million tons of coal Let’s strike here! Let the Dragon King change his job Let the river climb the hills Let us ask it for 8000 mu of rice paddies Let’s wage war against the great earth! Let the mountains and rivers surrender under our feet March on Nature Let’s take over the power of rain and wind (Zhang Zhimin, Personalities in the Commune quoted in Shapiro, Judith (2001) Mao’s War against Nature (no page number)

20 Available from

21 Available from rnaces.jpg rnaces.jpg

22 The Aftermath of the Great Leap Forward Grain production fell – 185m tonnes 1957, 160m tonnes 1960 –Official figure 1958 375m tonnes –Revised down to 250m tonnes –Western economists estimate harvest at 215m tonnes Widespread famine. –between 20m – 30m deaths Officially blamed on natural disasters –Severe drought and serious flooding 1959-61 –“three bad years”

23 Man-made or Natural Disaster? Floods/droughts are natural phenomena, but they were compounded by : Failure of irrigation and flood defences –Workforce re-directed to smelt steel etc. Widespread & large-scale deforestation –Increased erosion and flooding Increased insect numbers –Un-harvested grain & grain sores devoured Political culture –Unquestioning obedience of subordinates to superiors –Grain production figures inflated in-line with expectations of leaders

24 Suggested readings For the situation during the Imperial Age see the following: Elvin, Mark (1999) The Environmental Legacy of Imperial China. In Edmonds, Richard L. (ed.) Managing the Chinese Environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press pp. 9-32 Economy, Elizabeth (2004) The River Runs Black. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press pp. 27-57 For a detailed discussion of the Great Leap Forward period see: Shapiro, Judith (2001) Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press pp. 67-93

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