BEIJING: One heritage the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games left China is a clearer sky as well as a realization that any economic miracle without proper care for the environment would still be a failure.
Nothing has risen so quickly and prominently on the global political and economic agenda than the once-academic topic of climate change and how to curb the evils of industrialization for the benefit of all human beings.
In its brief history of modernization, six decades at most, New China has realized heavy pollution and excessive energy consumption is suicidal.
In a land third largest in the world, China manages to feed the world's biggest population, 1.3 billion. The people on the land do, first and foremost, suffer from air, water and soil pollution. They, understandably, would be the first to benefit from endeavors to protect the environment.
Just as people in developed countries used to believe, the Chinese often perceived successful lifestyle as owning a gas-guzzling motor vehicle, frequent intake of intensively processed foods and having as many electric appliances in the home as possible.
With the trappings of modern civilization now ubiquitous, Chinese people, paradoxically, are reminiscing about times past when nature and society interacted harmoniously.
With the world's biggest export industry, China now manufactures products for global consumption -- as well as a carbon footprint which is both a financial and health debt every Chinese has to pay.
While acknowledging the significance and urgency of globally-concerted efforts to address climate change, President Hu Jintao has vowed that China will continue sustained development, implying the country's pursuit of a green economy.
The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, China's top legislature, approved Thursday an unprecedented resolution on "actively tackling climate change." The passing of the resolution also shows explicitly China has the full political will to push for the success of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) later this year in Copenhagen.
A developing country that has not been required by the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to quantify emissions limitations and reduction objectives, China has voluntarily set green targets even at the cost of slowing its growth rate, curtailing greenhouse gases emissions by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010 and reducing energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of gross domestic product (GDP).
China's choice of a green road is not something resulting from outside pressure. An underdeveloped country with a swelling population and rocketing domestic demand could not sustain development that consumed resources excessively.
Today's knowledge-intensive economy has lowered the barriers to upgrading eco-friendly technologies for most global players.
In pursuit of less-consuming and more effective ways of production, China is sharpening its own economic competitiveness.
This is not a fanciful notion. Fighting global warming and looking for solutions to climate change are of shared interest to human society.
If climate change negotiations are viewed as a "carrots or sticks" policy and haggles over various countries' emissions targets seen merely as sophisticated ways to redistribute global wealth, the road to Copenhagen will be more or less bumpy.