Nature Conservation

Traditionally, Chinese arts have had a massive influence from nature. Many artifacts from ancient china depict both real and mythical creatures and they tell of magical powers that the creatures possess. In fact a lot of aspects of Chinese living stems from nature. Chinese legend speaks of men wandering into the mountains seeking immortality and purifying their spirit.  But with china developing at such a rapid rate and industry taking over the land, natural habitats are quickly disappearing. Many animals in china are now becoming endangered, hunted for their great value. Pollution is effecting air quality and poisoning waterways. With China becoming so industrialized conservation seems to be getting brushed aside. Like most aspects of life there are people that are keen on conservation and others that care more about economic growth. This variation of opinion can be seen across many different generations.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses nature in its remedies. In Chinese medicine, bones command a very handsome price as a kidney enhancer and remedy for arthritis. Endangered animals such as the snow leopard are hunted for this reason. There is a large lucrative market in china for endangered animals. This causes a negative and often destructive attitude towards conservation. Hunting is quite common and threatens a number of species in china. But the threat doesn’t come just from the demand for medicine. Primarily animals are seen in China as things to eat. There is a wide range and variation of meats eaten in China. Some of witch would have people’s stomachs turning in the west.

There are groups in China that are trying to stop poaching and conserve natural habitats. These conservation groups are built up of people of all ages. However it is more common for people from “Boomers” (approximate ages 40-60) and “Post-Career” (60+) generations to make up the majority of the group. This could be because they know more and care more about the environment. It could also be that older generations were brought up in a time were the power to control all industry was in the hands of the government. Most people had very little money and industry was producing virtually no consumer goods. The environmental benefits of this kind of anti-consumerism are obvious. This meant that there was never a major concern about conservation in China. Younger generations are growing up in a time were economic growth is everything and this is were the biggest threat to China’s Eco-system comes from, industry. China has become the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet. With goods being shipped across the world and with Chinese consumers (who can afford it) wanting bigger cars, bigger houses, the latest electrical goods, with seemingly no conscious of the environmental impact it brings.

There seems to be a strong opinion that most businesses in china don’t care about the environment. This could be due to the constant pressure to increase production, making environmental concerns unaffordable. With China’s economy developing at such a rapid rate businesses claim not to have the necessary means to deal with pollution, nor do they have the regulatory agencies to watch over it. The government in Beijing no longer has the will nor the power to force businesses to deal with these problems. As a result, much of China is beyond environmental salvation. The Yangtze River is a great example of what effect the industrial boom in China is having to natural habitats. There is thought to be at least three species in the Yangtze that are critically endangered. In 2006 the Baiji, (Chinese river Dolphin) “Goddess of the Yangtze” was declared functionally extinct. However there have been unofficial sightings since. This devastation of aquatic species has come about with commercial use of the river coupled with tourism and pollution.

There are some cases however were businesses in China are being “green”. The company “Broad Air-conditioning” has made environmental protection one of there top priorities and China is in fact a world leader in solar power. Seven of the top ten leading solar company’s in the world are Chinese. China is also the largest producer of wind energy producing a new wind turbine every hour. But to get to this level China has had to burn a lot of coal and produce a lot of pollution. The Chinese government is aiming to be the first “Green super power”. Experts predict that China’s emissions will double before they start to decline. Many natural habitats are being taken over by new large-scale factories and workers accommodation. China is growing and its city’s are expanding making natural habitats vanish.

It is key then that China looks to its young entrepreneurs to change the way that China’s economy is growing to an eco-friendly approach. It seems however that the number one goal is to get rich first and then approach the problem of conservation. Some have called this the “me generation” aspiring to have the latest goods and top brands “Looking out for number one”. The president for China’s Energy conservation, Mr. Yang Xincheng is 67 and The other Key Executives for China Energy Conservation are also all from the time were Chinese industry was at a kind of underdeveloped “half-throttle” stage were very few consumer goods were produced for Chinese people. The government has set up some environmental protection commissions. There are also more and more articles in newspapers in China and across the world, discussing what must be done to save China’s ecology. There are also some animal sanctuaries set up to help endangered species. But it still seems that China’s natural habitats are declining at an alarming rate.

China is stuck with a dilemma between production and environmental protection. Like with almost all aspects of life there is a large variation of opinions. The main opinion though suggests that there are more important things to worry about than “being green”. Things like continuing the economic growth and becoming world-leading innovators. Whether China can reach these goals wile still having concerns about the environment remains to be seen.

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Attitude towards China today

To discover how aware people are of where goods they purchase are manufactured, I asked, where people thought their mobile phone was made. I chose mobile phones because in 2007 50% of mobile phones were made in China. The most common answer was “I don’t know” followed by “maybe China? Everything’s made in china…” it became apparent that a lot of consumers are not concerned about were their products originate from. It would appear that this was the case with me when it came to my mobile phone so I set about finding out were it was made.

Hidden in small type behind the battery were the words made in Taiwan and on the back of the battery it read, “made in China”. So I could find this out easily by taking my phone apart. But what if I wanted to look the phone up online before committing to buying it. On the companies official website I could find the phones specifications were clear to see. There was information such as screen size, memory, camera etc. But there was no information about the phones origin. In fact, after spending some time searching the website I couldn’t find any information about were the phone was actually manufactured. I found out that on Internet forums the question of where phones are made is quite common. An answer to one of these questions confirmed that my phone indeed was made in Taiwan. A comment saying, “At least it’s not that boring “Made in China” most things have…” then followed this answer. It seems strange to think that there is a feeling of surprise when something isn’t made in China. People have come to accept that their goods are from China and this doesn’t seem to be an issue. Cheaper prices bring greater custom.

But the more aware people are about the origins of their products, the more inclined they are to pay more for items that are made in fair conditions. This has seen some company’s hiding the fact their products are made using foreign cheap labour. So is this the reason I found it hard to discover the origin of my phone on the company’s website. Products can be made in china at a fraction of the price it would cost to make them in the west. But company’s are embarrassed about using foreign low paid workers and they are worried that they might loose custom if consumers knew the truth about were their goods are manufactured.

It seems that people generally think of China for mass, cheap manufacturing. But is this a positive view or dose it give China a bad image? A global poll showed that In 2004 European country’s felt that China’s influence on the rest of the world was general a positive thing. But since then the majority of people in Europe now see China’s influence as a negative thing. Interestingly China’s opinion of Europe’s influence is mainly positive. This shift of European opinion may have come about due to media uncovering some company’s use of China’s cheap work force. The United States of America also have a predominately negative view on Chinas influences. This could be due to recent stories of tightening of state control in China. This has damaged China’s image in the world. However overall there are more countries in the rest of the world that see China’s influence as being a positive thing than there are that see their influence as being negative.

China is developing and they are hoping that this growth will help change the opinion of European country’s and the United States. I think this opinion will change with China’s efforts to reduce poverty and become a “green” country.

Opinions on products produced in China will change with the country’s push to get out of low-end manufacturing and focus on developing high-end industries.

Assignment 2: Chinese Product Design

Modern China is associated with cheap mass manufacturing. Very little is known about China’s product design and it is not globally recognized. But now various design companies in China are trying to reposition their country as a place where ideas are created rather than appropriated. Chinese people have demonstrated great innovation throughout the ages. This can be seen with inventions like the magnetic compass and the Abacus.

The magnetic compass was developed in china around 500 BC. Original compasses consisted of a spoon shape made from magnetite ore and a cast bronze plate that the spoon would sit on. It was initially used for religious beliefs. If your house was north facing it was thought to be in perfect harmony with nature. Compasses are still used for this purpose today in the concepts of Feng Shui.  Most people however are more familiar with the compass being used for navigation. The compass is one of the greatest navigational tools ever made and it is still used all over the world. Another great Chinese’s invention is the Abacus.

The Abacus is a counting device that allowed people to keep a record of their assets such as livestock. It could also be used to add, subtract, multiply, divide, find square roots and cube roots. China is also well known for producing the moldboard plow for tilling farmland. The wing-shaped cast iron blade turned up the soil easily and efficiently. Eventually, these plows were used in agriculture throughout the Western world.

But more recently Chinese products are less original and innovative. Modern day Chinese design has a massive influence from the West, with many designs resembling western products. There is a Chinese saying that “a foreign moon is always rounder” and this can be seen in many Chinese electrical products that are replicas of western makes and brands. “Sonia” headphones and “Nokla” cameras are just two examples of this. But why, after centuries of Chinese innovation, do these design impersonations exist?

The demand for Western brands in china has been increasing rapidly. Recent sales reports from china showed a “staggering” demand for Apples new iPhone 4S. With such a high demand for western goods Chinese designers find it hard to make an impression and are overcome bye the high demand from the public to design in a western style. Another reason for China’s loss of innovation came with a strong control over what artwork and design was allowed. Even 10 years ago it would have been unheard of for a Chinese artist to be able to display their work to the public. Now however artists are able to show their work in state run museums, galleries and in some cases public spaces. So with these design restrictions becoming reduced and with creative freedom becoming more apparent, Chinese designers are now able to push the boundaries and explore new concepts and ideas. Because of this more interest is being shown from designers looking into China. Chinese designers are pushing to change the saying from “made in China” to “Designed in China”. In the last few years Beijing has held a design week every year to showcase Chinese design. Events like this are helping to bring Chinese design into the 21st century.

As well as these designers there are also a large number of Chinese students returning to China after studying design abroad. These students have spent time studying in places like Milan, New York, London and Tokyo developing their skills. Theses students could hold the key to bringing back innovation to Chinese design.

It may still be many years before Chinese design companies are equal to those in the west. But I think it is only a matter of time till they are and once they reach the top there will be a new chapter written in the history of design.

Western view on China’s history

China has a long and complex history, it holds claim to the world’s oldest continuous civilization. Such a rich cultural history has put China among the world’s top travel destinations.

These are just a few tag lines from ChinaHolidays.co.uk

“Explore the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China”

“See the fascinating archaeological discovery of the Terracotta Warriors”

“Venture into the Forbidden City”

But for century’s westerners have understood very little about China. Are there still misconceptions about Chinese people and their history?

The Great Wall of China is said to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The wall was constructed in the 5th century BC and runs across the entire northern part of China. It’s a must see for tourists and it draws huge crowds every day. Another historical destination for tourists to tick of the list is the Forbidden City. The city was home to 24 different emperors, 14 of the Ming Dynasty and 10 of the Qing Dynasty. The Forbidden City plays a big role in Chinas history and tourists come from all around the world to visit it. Other historical sites tourist are urged to visit in china include, The Summer Palace, The Terracotta Warriors, Suzhou Garden and the Ming Tombs.

Because there are more people now visiting China its history is beginning to be shared with the rest of the world. Various books and films help share Chinas history as well. But for many years, the western view on Chinas history was taken from myths and superstition that didn’t match the reality. Historically relations between Brittan and china have not been good. This is one reason why there was such a lack of understanding about Chinas history.

One example of this was in 1793 when Britain sent an official trade mission to Beijing. George Macartney led the trade mission. He presented Emperor Qianlong with Science instruments, metal wear, pottery and other examples of British industry. The Emperor claimed he had no need for these items, he felt that china already had everything it needed. The British were sent home and forced to take more evasive action to secure the trade routs. The stories that got back to Britain at the time spoke of the unpleasant and hostile environment that they had visited.

An earlier example to why westerners misconstrued China was in the 1920’s. American filmmakers were accused of giving warped images of the Chinese people and their culture. Films like “The First Born” (1921) were accused of giving distorted stereotypes of everyday Chinese life. Making it appear that; bizarre foods and drink, drug-dealing in the streets, and opium smoking were common practices.

Modern films depict Chinas history more accurately. Films like “The Last Emperor” (1987) that tells the story of the last emperor of the Ching Dynasty. A more modern film of Chinas history is “The Founding of a Republic” (2009) witch is an excellent look at a part of history that most people have never heard of. These films have helped people understand more about Chinas history.

But there are still people that think that Chinas culture continues to be the same today as it was thousands of years ago. It is still the case that people outside of china are unaware of modern cultures and modern life in china

This became apparent while speaking to someone who recently visited China. I was told about the amazing artworks and incredible archaeology that they had seen on their trip.  They had seen it all; the great wall, the forbidden city, the summer palace etc. interestingly they spoke very little about modern China. This particular tourist had booked a package holiday and was advised to stay with the the tour group at all times. Apparently before visiting China tourist are still bombarded with safety advice and taboos. Seemingly this is the main reason this particular traveler missed out on experiencing modern China.