3 x 0 = 2050

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OK, so the maths does not quite work! A better explanation may be that the newly-coined “3 zeros” are key to China’s plan for development sustainability by 2050. The suggested ingredients include, according to People’s Daily:

    • “zero growth in the natural growth rate of the population by 2030”

    • “zero growth in the consumption rate of energy and resources by 2040”

    • “zero growth in the degeneration rate of the environment by 2050”

The article provides some additional background on the (rather mystifying) report:

    “An Outline of Sustainable Development in China: State Volume”, a 20-volume book series compiled by 184 Chinese experts and scholars over two years and eight months, was published Sunday in Beijing.

    The publication is China’s first large-scale academic work summarizing the experience and laws of sustainable development. It proposes strategic objectives for sustainable development in China by 2050: reaching the sustainability level of moderately developed countries in an all-round way and entering the ranks of the world’s top ten countries in terms of sustainable development capability.

Even 184 highly-educated experts must admit that China is a difficult beast to predict, but if nothing else, it is interesting to note the aspirations. These include:

    • “The outline proposes concrete indicators to be attained by 2050 in sustainable development, with many of them closely related to people’s lives.“

    • “The average life expectancy is to reach 85.“

    • “The four major coefficients will average at the following points: Engel’s coefficient below 0.15; the Gini coefficient between 0.35 and 0.40; the human development index over 0.900; and the dual structure index around 1.5“

    • “The average number of years of education for the whole population will grow from the current 8.2 years to over 14 years.“

    • “Scientific development will contribute more than 75 percent to the national economy as a whole. “

    • Energy and resource consumption per unit of GDP will generate a value between 15 and 20 times higher than that in 2005.“

    • “Poverty will basically be eliminated nationwide.”

    • “Zero growth in the degeneration rate of the environment will basically be achieved.“

Plenty of interesting aims there, to say the least. But basically eliminate poverty nationwide?! Perhaps they are talking about absolute rather than relative poverty. In any event, there is still lots of that in “developed” countries, and many will predict that one as a missed target for the future. But enough of 2050, this report goes even further…

    “Before 2060, 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities will have reached their development goals, followed by the remainder of the nation by 2075.”

Better get that in my diary too!

Before writing off the report completely, however, it will be interesting to see how far the central government gets behind these aims. The power of policy should not be underestimated. I recently heard Michael (Lord) Heseltine talking about one of his early trips to China during the “difficult” Communist years. At that time he was told by an official of their grand (but unpublicized) development plans, and how China would emerge as an economic power in the years to come. He thought it was crazy…until it happened.

As All Roads Lead to China notes in a post on the same story, Pudong is a more recent example of an unlikely plan that was successfully implemented – and I remember only too well getting my shoes muddy walking around a potential factory site thinking that “this place will never get off the ground”. An early mistake from which I learnt an important lesson!

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