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Chatting with my Chinese friend (12): Do Arabs worry about climate change?

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

12-01-2015 15:01 BJT

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By H Karoui

As she watched thousands expressing their concern about climate change in cities of the globe on the eve of Paris UN conference,  my friend Chun Ling posed some interesting questions that I attempt to answer here.

Are people in Arab cities also worried about climate change?

In Arab cities, they don't demonstrate about the climate. They have more imminent and closer catastrophes that need all their  attention.

Are they not worried about pollution as much as we are in China?

Some Arabs may consider this problem a luxury they cannot afford thinking about while thousands die in bombings or flee their  countries.

In China we see this issue as important to our future as lifting people out of poverty or building up the new Silk Road from which  millions of people from many countries will profit. We are concerned about the future of mankind, not just China, which all the  same accounts for almost a quarter of the humanity.

Listen. You're right. China is a big country that succeeded in moving from extreme poverty to moderate wealth without compromising  its cultural values and standards of living. It has never been an easy job. In the last quarter of the 19th century and the first  quarter of the 20th, both China and the Arab world were undergoing the plight of imperialist humiliation while their national  elites were trying to awaken people to the hard reality and push them to resistance and fight. The Communist Party led that movement in China and unified the country after the civil war.

However Arab elites have been much more divided than the Chinese,  although several intellectual precursors heralded union and "renaissance" as a kind of rejuvenation of the Arab nation. Those  first pioneers of the 19th and 20th centuries had nothing to do with the kind of obscurantist thought that you see today, which  has begotten al-Qaeda, ISIL and other Islamic terrorists. Maybe you have never heard about those precursors who wrote and worked  for the union and renaissance of the Arab nation like al-Tahtawi, al-Afghani,  Muhammad Abdu,  Kheireddine al-Tunisi, Salama  Mousa, Lotfi al-Sayyid, Naguib al-Rayhani, George Antonius, Tahar al-Haddad and so on. Most believed in a secular system based on  constitutional rights and positive laws, acquisition of science and technology: the basis of modernism. None of them called for a  religious takeover or a fundamentalist revival with the exception of Saudi Arabia: the only country in the Arab world not  colonized by Westerners.

In that country, a fundamentalist Islamic cleric called Muhammad ibn Abdelwahab became the religious ally of the Saudi family which today rules the peninsula called Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism, the doctrine of Muhammad ibn Abdelwahab, got  lucky with the oil bonanza and proselytized throughout the world to make Islam more puritan and Muslims more radical, reactionary  and obscurantist. That is the problem of the Arab countries today and that is why you will not easily find a political movement or  party focused on environmental issues in the Arab region even though pollution threatens public health as much if not more than in  any industrial country.

In about 65 years, China, under the leadership of the Communist Party, has risen to become the second largest economy in the  globe, just after the USA. One billion and three hundred million Chinese hold today the flag of human progress. In less than a  century, China is again leading the march of human civilization as it did thousands of years ago. If there was a Nobel Prize offered to a country that succeeds in rising from poverty to prosperity in a relatively short period, it should be offered to the  People's Republic of China. The world's biggest rural society has been transformed into a world  factory. Such a miracle could not happen without sacrifices and painful compromises. China is suffering pollution. Nobody denies that and the government is working to fix what needs to be fixed on that level. China has made concrete efforts in environmental management, energy saving and  emission reductions and low-carbon technology development in recent years. Moreover it supports other countries in their fight  against pollution. President Xi Jinping announced in September that China would set up a south-south cooperation fund worth US$3.1  billion to help other developing countries cope with the effects of climate change. All these are good indeed. Meanwhile, what  happened in Arab countries in this regard? Not much.

You ask whether Arabs are concerned about climate change, pollution and environmental issues. Well, they are of course since they  share life on this planet with other peoples. But actually, if you want the truth, I don't know any  environmental political party  or movement in civil society that is really influential or enjoys popularity. Governments do what they can but I do not think  those issues should be left to governments without monitoring from civil society. After all, if people drink polluted water it is  they who die not the rulers. And if climate changes cause tsunamis and earthquakes and other natural catastrophes, people are the  first victims, not rulers.

I just want to end this long story by reminding you that during the 65 years that made China the country that it is today, Arabs  went through an unbelievable number of coups, counter-coups, pseudo-revolutions and pseudo-counter-revolutions, disorder,  brotherly infighting, vendettas, counter-vendettas, calling hither and thither Americans, British, French and anybody willing to  be paid in dollars to rescue their "allies" from the wreckage. Result: the whole Arab world today is a mess.

So, to the question "do Arabs worry about climate change?"  The answer is: no, they don't. They only worry about regime change.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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