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Chinese Communist Party Meeting Promises Big, Yet Vague, Changes

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Leaders of the world’s second-largest economy reportedly met to plot a strategy to get citizens to “start spending money, driving the economy.” What lands this U.S. National Public Radio report on the Wall of Shame is its unquestioned assumption that unending economic growth is a feasible and appropriate goal for the largest nation on Earth. Yesterday All Things Considered anchor Audie Cornish informed us:

“The country is trying to transition to a new economic model, one leaders there hope will ensure rapid expansion.”

Statements like this beg for exploration. China’s economic throughput could single-handedly liquidate enough of Earth’s resources to bring us to the point of collapse, yet this is not considered by reporter Frank Langfitt, who informs us:

“They need to figure out a whole new economic way of doing business if they're going to keep their success up.”

Yes, China does need to develop a new economic approach. What an incredible opportunity for a reporter to bring up questions about the impacts of economic growth and interview experts who are exploring other economic models. Unfortunately Langfitt and Cornish never raise the possibility that an economy of 1.4 billion people growing over 7% annually over the long term is both impossible and incredibly bad news for the global climate and ecosystems. Unfortunately, Langfitt uncritically equates economic growth with success:

“Economically, the country has had a great run for about three decades. But the world has changed and China has changed, and this is no longer a low-wage country. It's now a middle income country.”

It is probably fair for a journalist to judge that economic growth was "a great run" for an impoverished nation. It's understandable that cheering China's economic growth as "development" has become a habit, but if the Chinese are now middle-income, a sustainable long-term strategy requires shifting its goal from “economic growth” to “economic health.” This report shows no recognition of that fact.

A Reuters story two weeks ago, China President Xi Confident About Healthy Economic Growth, is representative of the prevalent economic reporting I can only characterize as “mindless.” It described China’s high growth rate goal as “healthy,” and it’s recent 7.5% growth rate as its “slackest pace.”

We’ll see countless news reports today about the wrap-up of China’s four-day economic meeting. If you find a single story that brings up the destructive threat of continued Chinese economic expansion, let us know. We rarely find journalists who exhibit an awareness of limits to growth, but we hope NPR might be among the first to wake up and begin exploring this. So far, there are no signs of life.

Photo: Luohu Shopping Center in Shenzhen, China

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Guest Thursday, 26 November 2015

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