China's ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, called for increased global cooperation on a host of international issues during a visit to MIT on Tuesday, Feb. 10.
"There is a growing consensus that economic globalization has become an irresistible force, and no country can opt out," Zhou said during an appearance before the MIT China Forum in 10-250. "There is no doubt that we are living in a global village. We are all in the same boat -- the glory or detriment of one is the glory or detriment of all."
In particular, Zhou stressed the importance of working together on energy and environmental issues. "We need to grow our economy in a sustainable way," Zhou said, addressing concerns that many in the West have about the environmental harm that could result if China's growth propels it toward energy use and emissions comparable to those of the United States.
"We need better coordination," he said, to assure that there is "social progress with economic growth, and environmental protection with economic growth. We need to do better. The economic model here cannot be copied in China."
Toward that end, he said, "China is probably the first country which has come up with a national plan for energy efficiency and control of major pollutants." That plan includes a goal of 10 percent reductions in terms of emissions of major pollutants and 10 percent improvements in efficiency between 2005 and 2010.
The present economic crisis, Zhou said, offers some opportunities for improvements in the industrial sector. China's iron and steel industry and its auto industry have "an opportunity for restructuring," by shutting down older, smaller plants that are not energy efficient and replacing them with larger more efficient ones. As the industries modernize and restructure, "you will see a lot of mergers in China," he said.
Because of the growing interdependence between nations, he stressed, "countries must strengthen communications and dialogue." China and the United States, he said, already have "one of the most dynamic and influential bilateral relationships in the world today" -- something that "would have been inconceivable to most people 30 years ago."
China and the United States are now each others' second-largest export partners, he noted, adding that "friendship between the Chinese people and American people continues to grow."
"China has been for many years an important partner for MIT," said MIT President Susan Hockfield in introducing the ambassador, who was appointed in 2005. "I'm convinced that China has much to teach us."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 11, 2009 (download PDF).