One Car Policy?

Anyone who has visited China recently would complain about traffic in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities – it’s unbearable, so is pollution. A growing middle class increasingly owns cars. The number of car owners in China is rising by 10 million a year. Last year, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second-largest auto market.

China’s rapidly increasing demand for energy causes tremendous environmental concerns such as severe pollution and global warming. According to the International Energy Agency, China’s greenhouse gas emissions, although far lower than America’s when measured per person, are growing fast and are predicted to surpass America’s this year.

It sounds worrisome. But there are signs of hope. A recent The Economist article says China has tougher standards for fuel efficiency than America. “Its cars use 6.9 liters to travel 100 km compared with 9.8 liters in America. By next year the Chinese standard will rise to 6.5 liters – a level America will take a decade to reach under the most ambitious plans.” China is “the world’s fifth-biggest user of wind turbines, and the biggest consumer of the sort of solar panels used to heat water.”

The article went on saying that China’s success at curbing the growth in its populations – the so-called “one child policy” which is much criticized by the West – and reforestation also helped to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide each year. Between 1990 to 2005, China’s energy intensity (the ratio of energy-consumption to economic output) fell by over 4 % a year.

Perhaps China will come up with a “one car policy,” which I am certain won’t be criticized by the West this time. But once country opened up and Chinese could see how people lived on the other side of the world, there is no turning back. Would it be fair to say that Chinese citizens are less entitled to live as lavish as American do?