1.3 Billion to Trade Bicycles for Cars?

Athough not yet eager to take democracy on board, China is definitely starting to see the 'wisdom' of our economic and consumer philosophies. Our billboards, the internet, and our magazines are working, and too well. We would do well to take notice.

Before the 1980s China did not allow private citizens to purchase vehicles for private use and there were few automobiles on the roads.

Be worried. If you have given even a moment's thought to climate warming and its potential impact on our planet, be very worried. China, a nation of 1.3 billion people, has abandoned the bicycle as a principal mode of transportation and is now moving at a frightening pace to a car-based economy.

Perhaps it's the years of Western chest-beating about the grandeur of capitalism and consumerism. Or perhaps it's the simple human desire to have and consume more, to be more comfortable. Whatever it is, the Chinese are going the American way....

A friend who works for the World Health Organization recently pointed out that, when Chinese officials are drawn into discussions about bicycles as a means of transportation, they respond by asking how many people use bicycles in Los Angeles, New York or Toronto. Automobiles are rapidly replacing the bikes that are disappearing from the streets of Chinese cities at a phenomenal rates..

According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, car sales in China in the first half of 2006 climbed almost 50 per cent, year-on-year, to 1.8 million....

It is not only new roads that these automobiles require.

With China's new wealth come bigger houses, each requiring more energy, not only to build, but to heat in the winter and cool in the summer, producing additional climate warming gases. Last Nov. 22, the China Daily reported that in the first half of 2006, emissions of sulphur dioxide increased by 4.2 per cent, chemical oxygen demand, a major index of water pollution, grew by 3.7 per cent, compared to the same period in 2005....

Perhaps the only hope would be for Western trendsetters – young actors, business leaders, politicians – to adopt a non-car lifestyle, since Western trends seem to influence the behaviour of much of the world.

Of course, that is not going to happen. Even if by some miracle it does, there is no guarantee that a world that has watched the West stuff its collective face with energy-consuming habits will join in its new-found environmental sensitivity.

So be worried. It's really the only option. And if 1.3 billion car users do not scare you, remember that Indians, who number a mere 1.2 billion, are close behind. Our Western ethos and lifestyle has triumphed, all right.

Oh, here is one more piece of good news: At the recent annual Detroit auto salon, China's Changfeng auto group announced that within two years it will be selling sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks at least 20 per cent below any competitor. Isn't that wonderful? - Toronto Star

Just like the farmer that has to grow more crops just to pay for his tractor, the whole Chinese economy and infrastructure will have to upscale to accommodate their new vehicles. The bicycle is starting to look like a very healthy alternative once more. Can we get our media boys on it?


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  • Posted on Jan. 18, 2007. Listed in:

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