Opinion / Commentary

Humanity and nature need to exist in harmony
By Pan Yue (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-07-27 06:19

"Harmony" is at the core of traditional Chinese culture and the Chinese people's view of the world and the universe.

Chinese people are often heard to say: "Heaven and man are an integral one." As a result, they are in constant pursuit of harmony between humanity and nature.

Confucianism holds that all creatures stem from nature. It stresses that benevolence be shown to people and all other creatures, extending a spirit of benevolence to everything in the universe.

Taoism regards the law of nature as the supreme principle governing the universe and human society. It believes that harmony between nature and humanity is more important than good relations between people.

Buddhism maintains that all living creatures are born equal and have the right to live.

In ancient China, political institutions expressed the concept of harmony between humanity and nature. Starting from ancient times, different dynasties promulgated decrees on respect for the environment.

Furthermore, ancient thinkers tried to apply the doctrine of harmony to "benevolence-orientated politics." Mencius, for example, said there would be an abundance of grain if the sowing season was not missed, an abundance of fish if they were allowed to breed unhindered, and an abundance of timber if logging was conducted on a reasonable basis.

Mencius also said that an abundance of all the basics would very much improve people's lives, in turn, marking the beginning of the rule of benevolence.

The central authorities have now put forward the idea of creating a harmonious society, marking a shift from the long-standing practice of exclusively focusing on relations between people and between individuals and society.

President Hu Jintao pointed out that the relationship between humanity and nature often impacts on people-to-people relations and the relationship between individuals and the society.

He added that when the environment is seriously damaged, people's living conditions will worsen, and economic growth will outstrip the supply of resources and energy. Under such circumstances, social harmony is difficult to achieve.

Our environmental problems can be solved by shifting from the traditional model of economic growth and consumption, improving relationships between different interest groups, reforming decision-making mechanisms and upgrading technologies.

This package of wide-ranging changes requires the launching of a full-scale "environmental revolution," which will eventually bring about an environmentally friendly society.

Such a society would be based on industry consuming less resources, people's livelihoods based on moderate-level consumption, greater recycling of resources, a highly efficient economic infrastructure, greater innovation, an orderly and open financial set-up, a distribution system emphasizing social justice and a democratic political system.

Such attributes are the foundations of a harmonious society.

According to definitions given by the top authorities, a harmonious society should have the following attributes democracy and rule of law, fairness and social justice, credibility, vitality and energy, order and stability, and harmony between nature and humanity.

All these attributes are reflected more specifically in an environmentally friendly society.

In an environmentally friendly society, greater access to information facilitates public involvement in environmental undertakings, "green" GDP indicators and systems hold officials more accountable for the state of the environment and environmental laws and rules guarantee people's environmental rights.

All of this provides institutional foundations for democracy and rule of law in a harmonious society.

In an environmentally friendly society, social justice is promoted by people fully enjoying their environmental rights. This paves the way for the realization of social justice in a harmonious society.

In an environmentally friendly society, a humanitarian spirit prevails over excessively materialistic values, with people helping and caring for each other becoming the order of the day. This provides a harmonious society with a favourable ethical climate.

In an environmentally friendly society, energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies need to be developed and large numbers of creative professionals are required. This injects vitality into a harmonious society.

In an environmentally friendly society, new environmental policies and mechanisms concerning the distribution of environmental resources will be worked out to protect public health, address major social issues and iron out social disputes.

This helps guarantee the orderly and smooth functioning of a harmonious society.

The author is vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

(China Daily 07/27/2006 page4)