The most recent report issued in 2022, the year when Beijing ended the ‘zero-Covid’ policy, showed that only 7 per cent of the graduating class, including both undergraduates and graduates, chose to study abroad.
Human beings can be hugely creative. Although population increased eight times from 1 billion to over 8 billion between year 1800 and now, they are able, by and large, to meet their needs in a better way now compared to then, avoiding for the most part the devastating famines of those times. Human beings can be hugely destructive.
They have managed during the last century to bring unprecedented threats to the earth’s life-nurturing conditions. Villains in chief include weapons of mass destruction as well as serious environmental problems led by but not confined to climate change. They have also already destroyed biodiversity at unprecedented rates.
The challenge of the 21st century is how to use the immense creativity of human beings to check their immense capacity to destroy. What we know for certain is that this challenge must be met within a decade or so, as we are already at a rather late stage of our capacity to prevent the destruction of life-nurturing conditions, the stage at which tipping points of GHG emissions and other ecological ruin are crossed and conditions begin to rapidly spiral out of human control.
The inability so far to take reassuring actions is of course terrible and highly unjust to future generations. This as well as inadequacies and injustices of our times have prompted many thoughtful people to search for solutions to urgent problems and issues outside the paradigm of current globalized capitalist systems and seek alternative ways of organising societies, economies, governance and international relations, ways that are more conducive to peace, social harmony, justice and equality, protection of environment and biodiversity, animal welfare and above all are capable of checking destruction of life-nurturing conditions of our planet.
As the USA and its close allies are the strongest pillars of the existing globalized capitalist systems, such thinking is often very critical of them. This is clear enough. However, some of these movements make the serious mistake of instead looking to China, as the most discussed and important rival of the USA, for inspiration.
This is unlikely to be along the lines of old capitalist-communist divide as China is widely seen to be now communist in name only and has been integrated into the global capitalist system in significant ways in recent decades. The US-China rivalry is more over the question of who will dominate the world. Some in the alternative movement may think that as their struggle is first and foremost against the present day dominant power, it may be useful to befriend its foremost rival (the old argument of my enemy’s enemy is my friend).
However such arguments have no relevance in the context of the alternatives movement as it has to be completely honest in its search for true alternatives. The Chinese system by no means comes even close to what would be considered ideal for the alternative system – it is authoritarian, aggressively nationalist, repressive towards huge regions like Tibet, encouraging of personality cults and its commitment to environment protection is exaggerated. It is known for its own human rights violations on a large scale and for being very friendly to several authoritarian regimes known for largescale human rights violations.
Hence seeking inspiration and help from such a source would be extremely unhelpful for the alternatives movement in its honest, unbiased, sincere search for a different path. Hence this nearness to China should be avoided by the alternatives movement.
Otherwise it will risk getting corrupted at an early stage. On the other hand, if a government in any country emerges which is sincerely close to the true and honest vision of the alternatives movement, the movement should openly proclaim its support for such a government. In such a situation, it should have no hesitation to accept support from such a government as well as work actively to contribute to its efforts.
Even in such a situation and despite such cooperation, the alternatives movement should avoid accepting the leadership of any government and should maintain its independent quest for a new world based on justice, environment protection and peace.
Within a country, those governing a state or a town may have such a sincere commitment and here again the alternatives movement can cooperate in important ways with public authorities. After all, the task of the movement is not just to talk about a different path but to contribute to it in more creative ways whenever an opportunity becomes available. Representatives of the alternatives movement can of course also strive to themselves get elected to positions of authority, but their distinct recognition should be that they remain dedicated above all to pursuit of their declared objectives and ideals, and never abandon these for narrow ends.
(The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071)