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When China is slowing down

Over the last few months, a deep debate has been shaking a number of economists : at what rate will the growth of Chinese gross domestic product slow down ? The « optimists » think that the forecasts of the 12th plan (2011-2015 ) will come true : 7 % growth the year, compared with the 9 % or 10 % annual rate of around thirty years. The « pessimists » imagine a rough break - so Nouriel Roubini announcing a « violent landing » for 2013. Paul Krugman has just lined up on that side, wondering in December 19th’s New York Times : « Will China break ? » The influential economist underlines the fragility of the Chinese financial system, the constitution of a real estate bubble and the excess of investment expenditure. In fact, China operated in 2009 a strong stimulus to avoid being entangled in the crisis of the United States and Europe. But this very artificial acceleration has only delayed an inevitable braking.

However, if the economic analysts are afraid of this slowing down, the ecologists wait for it with relief : the ecological footprint of China has become so big, it is dangerous. Dangerous for itself, as revealed - one sign among thousands - Minister of the civil affairs, Li Liguo’s December 24th announcement that natural disasters had affected 440 million persons in 2011. Dangerous for the world, because the massive imports of raw materials to feed Chinese industry have a violent impact on the environment of supplier countries in Latin America, in Africa and in Indonesia.

In fact, China has been reproducing the behavior of the West during the industrial revolution : using the entire global ecological space to feed its development. But, in a period when the global ecological resources are quickly reduced, the consequences became unbearable there.

The stakes are to realize more quickly than the Chinese leaders wish it that transition towards an economy consuming far fewer natural resources. That need is not specific, however, to this immense country. The western countries also exercise - and for longer - a heavy ecological footprint. For example, the report « Relationship on the World Automobile Market » published on December 22nd by Scotiabank Group indicates that China’s purchases of automobiles probably exceeded ten million in 2010 - but that fifteen millions were purchased in the United States...

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