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China: still a paradox

30 January 2009
China: still a paradox

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

John Elkington's recent talk on 'The Phoenix Economy' in London held some contradictions. On the one hand, he's worked with corporates for years and believes they have the ability to transform their supply chains and singlehandedly contribute to sustainability, but he also thinks they won't have the 'big ideas' for solving problems like climate change. This contradiction is resolved in his approach at Volans - to reach out to corporates and social entrepreneurs, putting them together to solve problems.

Another contradiction is his analysis that China has 'clicked and dragged' its economic and industrial policy from the west, which is a recipe for ecological disaster already (even without China following it),  and therefore puts us on a path to seriously depressing outcomes: violence, pandemics, resource shortages and biodiversity loss.

On the other hand, John evokes Tom Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded to remind us that solutions will come from China. This contradiction was not resolved in his talk - but perhaps it is because both positions are true, and only time will tell which story future societies (if we make it that far) choose to believe about the 21st century.

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