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Chinese consumerism

(article, Culinate staff)

Late last year, the New York Times magazine ran a feature about the future of consumerism in China. Grist commentator Tom Philpott took a hard look at the story, pointing out that author David Leonhardt's hopeful prognostications for turning the Chinese into Western-style consumers offered nothing in the way of new economic models:

bq. I thought the time might be ripe for a multi-trillion-dollar public investment in a new, green economy: much-needed infrastructure for local and regional food systems; high-speed trains connecting cities; high-functioning mass transit within cities; a mass roll-out of truly clean energy like wind and solar; smart grids; etc. Such a program would eliminate much of the misery of underemployment and food security by putting people to work. And it would have repaid itself by laying the groundwork for carbon-light, community-based economic development going forward . . . Unfortunately, nothing remotely like that has happened.

Will the new China just be more of the same? Or a force for major global reforms? After all, as Philpott points out, the billions of mouths in China are still fed by a heavily regional and localized small-scale farm system. Can we do the same here?