Chinese girl picking strawberriesPhoto: Ivan WalshMy fellow Americans: China is drinking our milkshake. While we fuss and argue about green energy, the former burgeoning pollution giant is racing ahead with wind power, clean technology, and emissions controls. We’re starting to wonder whether the Amy Chua essay that’s been blowing up the internet, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” has some applications on a geopolitical level. Does American green energy just need some old-fashioned discipline?

Here’s the evidence that the “mister, you’re not leaving this room until this gets dealt with” approach is working:

China spends its pocket money better: “The Chinese are spending one-sixth as much as the United States on their military and investing twice as much on clean energy technology,” writes the Guardian. Plus, our military isn’t exactly green, so the massive amount of money we spend on defense — more than the next 15 biggest spenders combined — isn’t just starving our green energy budget, it’s also counterproductive from a climate standpoint. China’s spending isn’t as skewed, which may explain why it’s been able to install three times as much new wind power capacity as the U.S. in 2010, and will soon have more wind capacity than we do overall, if it doesn’t already.

China gets its work done on time:
China’s gone from zero to world’s fastest goddamn high-speed train in just a few years. It’s invested billions of dollars in rail service, and will soon have more high-speed track than the rest of the world combined. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, high-speed rail company Talgo has abandoned plans for a Milwaukee-to-Madison project because of a shoving match over funding. Ohio’s new governor also killed a planned high-speed rail line, rejecting federal funds rather than see them go to a rail project. One of you kids is going to bed without dessert.

China cleans up after itself:
Yeah, China has historically been known as something of a pigsty, environmentally speaking. Remember the concern over whether athletes at the 2008 Olympics would actually be able to breathe? But they’ve been setting and achieving modest pollution control goals, and announced a wider-ranging and more ambitious set just today. Granted, they’ve still got a long way to go, but so do we.

China even plays with its toys better: We’re skeptical about the real-world value of so-called “model cities” — we’d rather see that effort go into fixing existing cities, not setting up Epcot Center visions of ecological responsibility. The prospectus pictures for China’s planned Tianjin Eco-City sure are breathtaking, though, and it’s cool to see people thinking about how urban spaces can maximize their green potential. On the whole, this is probably beautiful, pointless, and unrealistically idealized — there’s a reason they call it a “model.” But it’s interesting that China is even outstripping us on fantasy.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!