Sink or Swim
Environmental researcher Cleo Paskal once told environmental NGO China Dialogue that China’s approach to climate disasters resembled that of “King Cnut”, in reference to the 12th-century Scandinavian king who, depending the version of the story, either arrogantly told the tides to stay away from his royal person, or realized from the experience his powerlessness to command God and nature.
Both versions fit the Chinese case. On the one hand, blessed or cursed by its long recorded history, environmental disasters in China are still often discussed in terms of historical patterns, thus are more or less natural and statistical inevitabilities rather than manmade phenomena.
On the other hand, as an economically advancing and scientific society, Chinese researchers and officials favor approaches to disaster management that emphasize infrastructural improvements, heavy engineering, and streamlined official responses. The disastrous “once-in100-years” flooding of the Yangtze