Society & Culture
Globalization has, no doubt, done wonders to China. If the economy is booming, it is because of globalization and economic reforms particularly the opening up of the economy to the outside world. At the same time, there are certain ill effects which China is still grappling with. Globalization has, however, brought in more ‘positives’ than ‘negatives’ though some of them are obnoxious to the Chinese society and the economy. Before the liberalization process began in 1979, China was known for its iron curtain that is: secrecy in all its actions, closed approach, isolation and trying to do everything on its own under the garb of self-sufficiency. At that point of time, China was known for its bicycles, communist culture.
Mao suits- the blue color uniform which was the only dress every Chinese man and woman was allowed to wear. Globalization has brought about a sea change in the economy and society. The Mao cap and blue suits have become a thing of the past. No one wears them. Women are more modern than their western counterpart. They wear miniskirts and other newly fashion and today hardly seen any Chinese woman wears traditionally dress barring some special occasions.
There used to be no theft or robbery in China before the liberalization process started. Today, it is different. These have become common phenomena like any other country. But China is still a safer place to live in as there is comparatively better law and order and the administration comes out with a heavy hand to deal with any defiance of authority. Even today, there is summary trial to punish the guilty.
On the other hand, cultures are also one of the elements affected by the globalization. Chinese government has both embraced and spurned the effects of globalization. Understanding that they can no longer keep China sealed from outside influences, the government has allowed some tenets of western culture into the country, while keeping some technology such as the internet under watch. Meanwhile, censorship is rampant throughout China. Internet search engines such as Yahoo and Google must submit to the government’s censorship guidelines. Controversial portions of China’s history, such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre have been wiped away from history with all fragments of information on the even coming from outside sources.
Since 1978 when it first initiated its Open Door policy, China has been one of the major growth spots for international trade and investment. Between 1978 and 2000 foreign trade increased 24-fold, and today China is the premier recipient of foreign direct investment in Asia. Moreover, exports and foreign investment now generate a full 40 percent of China’s GDP. With the Chinese economy growing at an annual rate of close to 10 percent for much of the past two decades, Chinese people, to varying degrees, have benefited financially from engagement in the global economy. But at what cost?
Over this same period, China has experienced a notable increase in both range and extent of its already serious environmental problems, equivalent in monetary terms to an estimated 15 percent of its GNP. In many parts of China, people now face critical water shortages, severe air and water pollution problems, serious soil degradation, loss of arable land, desertification, sand storms and flooding. Countless urban workers face occupational health threats parallel to those in the West during the early days of the industrial revolution, and farmers are routinely exposed to high levels of toxic pesticides. Moreover, in their efforts to increase their own standard of living, either through production for the global market or for their own consumption, Chinese people broadly speaking play a significant global role in deforestation, loss of biodiversity, ozone depletion and climate change all of which will have long term effects on the Chinese themselves as well as on other global citizens. As just one indicator of the more immediate human health impacts of environmental destruction, chronic pulmonary disease is now the leading cause of death in China; a primary reason for this disease is the heavy reliance on coal to fuel China’s growth.
To argue that these problems are simply the costs of development, however, would be to overlook the fact that many of these costs represent the ecological shadow necessary to support consumerism elsewhere. In fact, from a global environmental justice perspective, it is evident that the rights of Chinese people to an equitable exposure to environmental harms have been violated in two respects. First, environmental harms resulting from resource exploitation, the production of export products and the disposal of foreign wastes are shouldered predominantly, and immediately, by the people of China and experienced only indirectly, if at all, by the many foreign consumers (most notably in the industrialized West), whose lifestyles these ecologically destructive practices have supported. Second, even within China, these environmental harms are not equally distributed. Rather, engagement in the global market, and the drive it creates for least-cost production and achievement of comparative advantage, means that when compared to their wealthier counterparts, poorer Chinese are increasingly exposed to a disproportionate share of the environmental harms of trade relative to the economic benefits of it.