Russia, China and the ‘Green Economy’

Sharing 4,300 km of geographical border and a communist past, nowadays Russia and China are close allies in political and economical arenas. The two countries, despite their differences, have common characteristics such as highly centralised government, ideas of state domination over the market, and the value given to non-transparent goals of strategic planning. Although having taken dramatically different reform paths after the Soviet Union collapsed, the two countries are becoming more politically similar as the newly reconstructing Russian State is becoming more authoritarian and Chinese communist Party has maintained its importance during the economic transformation.

One common trend in Chinese and Russian policy-making process is to draw attention to some goals and concepts that have a potential of bringing the “bright future” to everyone. Among those in the past were nano-technology, innovations and harmonious society. One can think of the Green Economy as a newly-fashioned concept trending in Russia and China. On the quest to a more environmentally friendly economic regime, this policy, developed by the UNEP in 2007 has a promising future. While Russia hasn’t moved further than round tables and conferences on the issue, China is already piloting model cities and pledged to create a billions worth recycling industry by 2015.

The question that interests me, however, is can ‘Green Economy’ act as a window of opportunity for civil society in these countries. In a semi-authoritarian contexts where Russian and Chinese Environmental NGOs have to operate, any legal or political framework can prove to be valuable in shedding light on pressing issues, getting media attention or acquiring legitimacy for activists’ initiatives. From my experience of working with Moscow NGOs, however sensitive the issue would be, framed as “we are helping the government to implement the Green Economy concept” it would become legitimate. Whether this is the case in China and other countries, still has yet to be examined…

Irina Fodorenko

DPhil Student

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