Chinese School Children. Greenhall1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

SCMP: China Teaching Children to Limit their Climate Activism

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to the South China Morning Post, China wants kids to learn about climate change, but is trying to moderate the message to encourage children to focus on personal climate action rather than joining protest movements.

Climate change: children in China learn Beijing’s version of the story

Authorities want students to support green campaigns, but for their activism to stop at lowering their carbon footprints

Scripted lessons and censorship mean broad acceptance of the dangers of climate change and little impetus to push for more aggressive policies

Published: 4:00pm, 7 Feb, 2021
Why you can trust SCMP

For most of her young life, nine-year-old Gao Ximan dreamed of becoming a policewoman. But after attending an eight-week online workshop about climate change over the summer, she decided being a conservationist was a more important ambition.

“Siberian tigers and snow leopards are so cute, but they are dying out,” said the fourth-grade student at one of Beijing’s top public schools. She stopped using the air conditioner in her bedroom and insisted her family used public transport instead of their car for weekend outings.

Gao’s interest in the environment is something the Chinese government is trying to cultivate in young people as it pursues wide-ranging reforms to eliminate its net emissions of carbon dioxide by 2060. But the nation’s state-led approach to climate change is less tolerant of public debate over how it is going to get there. In other words, the authorities want children like Gao to support its green campaigns, but would prefer their activism stop at lowering their own carbon footprints.

“China’s climate education emphasises that responsibility lies with the individual and they can make a difference by living a low-carbon life, but they are not the ones that should influence policymaking,” said Yao Zhe, who specialises in climate communications and has worked with various green organisations in China. 

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How can children believe that carbon footprints matter, that the world is in peril, but they should celebrate China’s right to develop and never criticise government policy, when the state orders the construction of a new coal plant? I guess we’re all going to find out.

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February 7, 2021 6:59 pm

… little impetus to push for more aggressive policies.

China doesn’t work the way these folks imagine it does.

Reply to  commieBob
February 7, 2021 7:14 pm

Perhaps in a bid to normalize a favorable juxtaposition of the sexes, the girls have ribbons in their hair. Cute.

Reply to  n.n
February 7, 2021 7:52 pm

On my first trip to China almost 40 years ago, there was very little individuality. Children’s hair styles, shoes, pants and ribbons, would have been more uniform. Girls didn’t wear pants, though it was common among women. I doubt there were many blue jeans in the country then, at least I don’t recall any Chinese wearing them.

I guess some choice is better than none.

Bryan A
Reply to  Scissor
February 7, 2021 10:40 pm

“China’s climate education emphasises that responsibility lies with the individual and they can make a difference by living a low-carbon life, but they are not the ones that should influence policymaking,” said Yao Zhe, who specialises in climate communications and has worked with various green organisations in China.

In a democratic government it is “We The People” that tell “Government” what to do.
In Chi-Com it is the “Government” that tells “We The People” what NOT to do

Rod Evans
Reply to  Bryan A
February 8, 2021 12:12 am

Sadly our current interpretation of democracy allows us to pick which name is on the door of the party that tells us what to do. Our rights to self determination have never been under such draconian control in the West, as it is today. Even the guy/gal whose name is on the door, is under instruction from the permanent power brokers now firmly established among us.

Reply to  Scissor
February 8, 2021 12:13 pm

On my first trip to China almost 40 years ago, …

It was a very different place. The people had been through a lot and there was still a bit more to come.

We in the USofA and Canada are so lucky.

Reply to  n.n
February 8, 2021 9:10 pm

Unlike the West, China is reportedly pursuing a plan to make boys more masculine, not more feminine.

Marc L.
Reply to  MarkG
February 18, 2021 1:37 pm

The Chinese, much like many eastern European people, have been inoculated against cultural marxism, knowing first hand the damage it does on society. Their brand of mixed economy socialism does not include cultural marxism. In fact they actively censor woke culture in their mass media, their censorship of movies is pretty close tot he one we used to have in western countries before the 1960s.

February 7, 2021 7:29 pm

China has their own agenda.

Reply to  markl
February 7, 2021 8:11 pm

China, or rather the Party, first. They just manage their ambitions better than their ideological counterparts.

February 7, 2021 7:56 pm

The climate change fraud benefits one country and one country only…..China.

February 7, 2021 8:34 pm

The most “GREENING” molecule in the world is CO2 !

If you want “green”, then stop hating carbon dioxide.

Reply to  fred250
February 8, 2021 8:54 am

That would make a brilliant bumper sticker, although some Muppet would probably throw a brick at your car.

February 7, 2021 10:32 pm

So do we think this is bad (because we think everything China does is bad) or do we think it is good because it doesn’t restrict development (and we think that development is good).

Mike Dubrasich
February 7, 2021 10:48 pm

Our teachers, on the other hand, encourage our children to join protest movements calling for oppressive government strictures on the use of fossil fuels — in order to “save” the planet from Thermageddon. Bogus climate theories are force fed to young minds to instill paranoia, anger, depression, and hatred for their parents.

Which educational “system” is preferable?

Climate believer
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
February 8, 2021 1:31 am

Which educational “system” is preferable?”


February 8, 2021 3:47 am

The article ends with “I guess we’re all going to find out.”. Well, I guess that they’re not going to find out, because the CCP isn’t going to let them find out.

Richard Page
Reply to  Mike Jonas
February 8, 2021 6:58 am

If there’s one thing you can rely on with human nature, it’s that things don’t always go to plan. China has a history of allowing some freedoms then brutally stamping them out when they get out of hand. They may have decided to allow a small degree of freedom with climate activism but when their citizens try to decide for themselves what they believe needs to be done there will be a backlash.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
February 8, 2021 1:53 pm

How did we find out about Chernobyl?

Richard Page
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 8, 2021 2:56 pm

Well it wasn’t anything to do with the Chinese.

Marc L.
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 18, 2021 1:39 pm


February 8, 2021 6:22 am

I mean in theory, China’s authoritarian dictatorship is a lever against wild groupthink mania’s that destroy society.

February 8, 2021 6:48 am

China has the right idea on many issues.
They are right on limiting family size.
They are right to get children to concentrate on useful and meaningful environmentalism such as conserving precious species, rather than following toxic agendas such as bird and bat killing wind and solar power death-plants.
They are right and pragmatic on power policy based on a transition from coal to nuclear for baseload.
They are right to pretend to follow the west’s delusional religion of zero carbon economic suicide, planning to renege on the suicide pact at the last minute, letting the others destroy themselves but stepping back to survive themselves, with competitors conveniently eliminated.

And before getting all riled up in an anti-China yellow peril moment, reflect on this simple fact.
America and China are now one and the same in their political system.
The Chinese Communist party and the American Demmunist party both have utter and total control of the entire government apparatus at all levels, and of a subservient media, in both countries.
The IT kommissars at Apple, Google, Micosoft etc and Jackboot Dorsey of Twitter also exert unlimited state power.
The US Republican party are just actors in a period drama as are stage managed and phoney “protests” against Biden. It’s a charade, there is no real opposition.
Democracy has been dead for a long time in the USA and even longer in China.
Americans looking at China need to understand they are looking in the mirror.

Marc L.
Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
February 8, 2021 3:43 pm

We’re not “looking in the mirror”, the Chinese government has been delivering for its people, they have overseen the greatest creation of wealth in the history of human civilization. China has poured more concrete the last 5 years than the US has in its entire history.

Their economic model is industrial capitalism, their whole economy is geared towards production and trade. This used to be the American economic model until the middle of the 20th century, when financial capitalism took over. Wall Street makes more money by stripping the assets of productive companies and outsourcing. The entire focus is on short term gains. This was the bread and butter of people like Mitt Romney and hedge funds like KKR or Paul Singer’s Elliot Management.

The Chinese government spends aggressively on infrastructure, and provide free education and healthcare, which means that their private sector is free to focus on production without the burden of health insurance and their young workers are debt-free. There is no red tape on construction so housing is cheap and their home ownership rates are close to 90%.

Reply to  Marc L.
February 8, 2021 11:18 pm

At the cost of freedom of religion and expression….

Marc L.
Reply to  AntonyIndia
February 18, 2021 1:43 pm

In 2021, that statement is highly debatable…

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Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
February 8, 2021 9:14 pm

Limiting family size has been a disaster for China, which is facing even worse demographics than the West. And it was only required because Mao had followed the opposite policy, pushing ever-larger families to have millions of men to fight the West.

Otherwise, yeah, there’s something to be said for having competent, practical men in charge of a society rather than lawyers and failed actors.

Marc L.
Reply to  MarkG
February 9, 2021 6:53 am

Mao has had a terrible legacy in China, setting the country back and implementing disastrous communist policies. China has managed to ween itself of the worst elements of communism and revert back to its cultural roots, essentially becoming an authoritarian mercantile meritocracy based on Confucian values.

This being said, China without family planning policies would have had a population closer to 2 billion in the middle of this century instead of around 1 billion (its population is set to decline in the coming decades), which could have resulted in large scale famines and social strife that could have impeded its economic development.

February 8, 2021 7:46 am

They have a future–I’m not so sure about the other kids in scare play.

David Hartley
February 8, 2021 8:26 am

We can chose from a false dichotomy whilst as is oft said here and elsewhere it’s the string pullers behind the illusion of choice that make our decisions for us and we can complain like hell but let’s face it it gets us nowhere.
Tell me that bedtime story about Democracy tonight Mummy I’m frikened and can’t sleep.

Reply to  David Hartley
February 9, 2021 2:19 pm

It may surprise people that China is very responsive to concerns of its people. The Communist Party has an extensive operation to gather data on consumer sentiment and political concerns. They react when their data reveals deep concern among citizens about specific issues. For example, they shut down coal fired power plants and chemical plants near large urban centers when citizens began to complain about pollution, which was real. They are unlikely to respond to hypothetical concerns about climate change unless someone can demonstrate that climate change is having a negative impact on the lives of its citizens.

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