Rapping China’s Environmental Plan

In early March, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency broadcasted a rap song. This song borders on “I want a man like Putin” level of absurdity. Unlike the rappers that the Chinese government has tried to silence, the rapper Su Han has been in widely watched TV programming that judges singers similar to American Idol. Ostensibly, this rap was to show support of the Chinese parliament that meets in “Two Sessions” (the name of the rap) at the same time. Strangely, the rap is in English with lyrics that seem to focus more on rhyme than reason. The topics that the rap touches on are supposed to extol the projects of the Chinese parliament such as their moon probe.

“You see we’ve attained landing on the dark side of the moon.”

In addition to issues of poverty and gender equality, the rap also has an entire section on the environment. The lyrics try to pack a lot of information into just a couple of lines.

Gotta be the Ready One Player when in front of dirty polluter/Eject all the rapaciousness like shaking off nephrolithiasis”

These lines seem to advocate for the pursuance of environmental standards over money seeking behavior. It is unclear who is the “dirty polluter” through the lyrics and the accompanying video does not help either. The references to video games and kidney stones are confusing but so is the overall message. While the rap’s sentiment is good, China has continued to build coal-fired power plants and hasn’t been successful in curbing its overall methane production.

Tree planting in Xinjiang, a dry province in China’s west. Photo by Jianchu Xu/World Agroforestry Centre

In addition to the previous lines, the rap evokes traditional ideals of Chinese nature to support the afforestation projects of the Chinese government. To battle desertification, China has pushed for the mass planting of trees in places like Xinjiang and their national park Saihanba. A good amount of afforestation is done voluntarily by members hailing from all levels of China’s society. According to China Daily, China plans to “increase its forest coverage rate to 23.04 percent by 2020, and to 26 percent by 2035, as part of the plan to build a Beautiful China.”

Overall, this rap with all of its clunky lyrics and political meaning has been a great way for China to grab the attention of young people. This rap was even featured in Hasan Minhaj’s weekly political comedy show, the Patriot Act. It also continues to show how while China is pushing for some good environmental change domestically and abroad, the approaches aren’t always successful as they would like it to be.

You can find the full video here.

Sarah Xu

Sarah Xu is a third year Environmental Economics and Policy major and Global Poverty and Practice minor. She is passionate about global environmental governance. At UC Berkeley, Sarah has been involved with programs on campus like ReUSE our on-campus thrift store, the Global Environment Theme House, and Berkeley Model United Nations. In her free time, Sarah enjoys over-caffeinating and getting lost on public transportation. Sarah Xu covers international environmental governance and policy.

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