I recently published a short blog on ‘The Daily Maverick’. This one is longer and was inspired by an article I read by J. Brooks Spector at the aforementioned online publication. So, below are some of my thoughts on the way of the world that were inspired by the article.

China article heading

As you all know the media and therefore the world is recently abuzz and agog with plans and hopes of change through ways that conserve the earth and ensure a home for those who come after us. I found this article exciting because it suggests a number of complex possibilities and by no means straightforward ways that the world could go.

The article mentions the fact that China’s economies of scale are helping and will help to reduce the cost of environmentally friendly technologies. The article implies that because China is able to manufacture solar technologies cheaper than elsewhere, they will be more affordable than they are at the moment. Exciting news for a middle class South African who cannot afford a house (and has not yet decided whether this is a convention she wants to be a part of) – me, but would like to be able to encourage the installation of solar technology on the premises, without bankrupting herself and the fear of having to move out as rents increase to cover costs. China’s role in manufacturing solar technology means that the body corporate may not balk at the idea of laying out money to equip the flats with the technology to bypass Eskom’s antiquated and failing system.

Of course if we are honestly and unselfishly committed to a better world, then this exciting news is dampened by the fact that the only way that China has managed to do this and has been able to compete successfully on the global manufacturing stage is through exploitative practices, i.e. cheap labour. Remember how the first world got up in its righteous arms when Naomi Klein published how little workers were paid in Nike factories in Asia for the loooong hours they worked? What will happen now?

For the world to do the right thing, we would have to insist that China compensates workers fairly for their contribution to China’s accelerated economic growth and global economic position. We would have to insist that before we do business with China and support their production of green technology, we need to see workers better paid across the board, across China.

Evidence suggests, however, that the world has neglected its duties to use its trading power to fight for the rights of the economically marginalised. Already China has made inroads into Africa and the United States and there have been no murmers of workers’ rights. Zwelinzima Vavi would become my hero in a heartbeat if he were to speak up about this. Now.

Until then, would it be okay for China to exploit its exploitative advantage to turn itself green? Is it okay for China to build concentrated solar farms and install low cost solar panels on roofs across the country at minimal cost while workers struggle to survive?

Another exciting aspect of this article is China’s economic growth (which is not news at this stage) and the real threat they present to the first world because economic power seems to equal decision making and bargaining power on a global level. China has decided that it is a developing country, thereby siding with the marginalised and economically weak countries around the world. This means that with China on (our side) the side of developing countries, these countries will have more bargaining power, more influence and stand more of a chance to swing world decisions in their favour.

This situation means then that China can literally give the US a run for their money. At the same time, what is exciting about this situation is also what we need to be wary of, which is that one country can become too powerful for our own good. As the world in 2009 kowtows (ironically a Chinese custom) to the US, were the power to be in the hands of any other country the same may occur.

I have to conclude that the problems of the world will continue, that the status-quo will remain even if we have access to affordable green technologies. If people, corporates, countries are allowed to continue to pursue profit at the expense of people’s livelihoods, human decency and human rights the world (people) and the earth (the planet and everything sustained on it) will continue to bear the brunt of this selfish competition. Many continue to delude themselves into thinking that the pursuit of profit benefits the all important economy which in turn benefits people, but if this were the case there would be no poor people. The world has pursued economic profit for centuries and over the same amount of time the number of poor people has increased.

That’s all I have for now. I’ve run out of stamina and become impatient with not being able to spill my thoughts at the rate they occur to me … this is a good thing for readers, however. Apologies nonetheless.