IS China doing enough about climate change? Beijing definitely thinks so. As Chinese Vice-Minister Zhao Baige famously told the 2009 Copenhagen climate change talks: “Because of the one-child policy, China has seen 400 million fewer births, which has resulted in 18 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions a year.”
Say what you will, but that certainly pales in comparison to anything Australia or perhaps anyone else in history has done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The natural reaction though is to recoil at the sheer inhumanity of such a policy. The grizzly photos which surfaced last week of Chinese mother-to-be Feng Jianmei, forced to abort her second child seven months into the pregnancy, are one small example of the terrible costs of China’s longstanding population control regime.
They are also a reminder that you can’t be in favour of state population control without inviting such consequences.
Some take a much more sanguine view of China’s approach. Former ambassador to China Ross Garnaut, for example, in his final climate change report, states: “One important driver of emissions – global population growth – has been gradually easing over the past several decades in response to rising living standards in the developing world – reinforced or compounded in China by strong anti-natal policies.”
China’s one-child policy is thus, according to Garnaut, not only environmentally-friendly but promotes economic growth. It’s a bit like our carbon tax,but China has taken it a step further. We put a price on carbon, they put a price on some carbon-based life forms (Chinese babies). China says it is following its path of “scientific development” and – as we all should know by now – you can’t argue with the science.
If you sign on to Garnaut’s thinking that emissions and population are fundamentally linked then not only are China’s policies understandable, but they may be unavoidable for all nations. Part of the final solution to man-made climate change, the remorseless logic goes, must be fewer men, women and children.
Garnaut is not alone in holding such views. When it comes to China’s population-control regime, the approach of many of Australia’s senior China diplomats has long been characterised by a sympathy with the goals of China’s policies, combined with an ignorance of how they operate.