China: The Impact of Reform & Development
In 1998, the Yangtze River flooded killing more than 3000, demolishing five million homes and inundating 52 million acres of land. The economic losses have been estimated to be greater than $20 billion. There are two reasons for this catastrophe. The first and most obvious – two decades of unconstrained logging combined with destruction of wetlands. Without the basic ecological infrastructure required to manage the annual hydrological cycle, three thousand lives and more than $20 billion was lost overnight. The other reason, elusive in contemporary economic and political discourse, is the awareness of ecological systems as organs within a composite biosphere - a biosphere that possesses both the potential to preserve and expand wealth, as well as the capacity to annihilate it in seconds. Not only is this rather self evident truth marginalized generally, within China, total disregard for such considerations had been institutionalized as we will discover in the final pages of this essay.
The economy has radically changed since the era when Adam Smith championed the ‘upstart’ businessmen who dared to challenge the merchant monopolies that dominated the economy of his day. For Smith, the government created monopoly distorted the market, and granted unfair privilege and power to one sector of the population. In his view, this privilege could not be justified. It is highly unlikely Smith could have foreseen the day when private power would become so great that it would be possible for mega-corporations to sue governments for damages, and win! For reasons Similar to Smith’s, I view NAFTA as a means by which Canada institutionalizes its subordination to American corporations.