Save or splurge?

As the push for a ‘low-carbon’ lifestyle gains currency around the world, China’s social environment challenges the implementation of the concept.

Against the backdrop of the recent (and ongoing) global financial crisis, China's exports shrank sharply. Changes were clearly needed in the country's mode of export-oriented economic growth. As such, in order to ensure eight-percent economic growth in 2009, a series of measures have been taken, including financial investments of some four trillion yuan (USD 585.6 billion), instituting increasingly active credit policies, and stimulating domestic consumption. This latter, however, while critical for the Chinese economy, now seems to be inevitably running directly counter to broader initiatives to curb China's carbon footprint – particularly in international forums, where the issue has reached a frenzied pitch in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks in December.

In 2008, the Chinese government launched 'village appliance' schemes nationwide, offering subsidies in an attempt to boost the sale of televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and mobile phones in rural areas. In 2009, another two billion yuan (nearly USD 300 million) was invested in a 'new-for-old' policy that has seen individuals and businesses sell back old appliances, in turn receiving a 10 percent subsidy on new purchases. In addition, the automobile market is benefiting from subsidies and tax breaks, and many cities have been handing out vouchers to locals. Clearly, China, together with many other countries around the world, is focusing increasing attention on its domestic market, in an attempt to expand domestic demand and increase economic growth. And in stark opposition to what was long the abiding rule in China, consumption and consumerism have become all the craze – as legitimated by the government itself.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian