If the pollution doesn’t grab you by the throat and make your eyes sting, the traffic and industrial activity will remind you that the world’s emerging superpower isn’t exactly a green paradise.
Government efforts to undermine distinctive minority areas in Tibet and Xinjiang have been unsubtle and the country’s human rights record could mean that anyone with an ethical conscience would give the whole place a body-swerve. Of course, this is true about many countries – and China offers an incredible experience for travellers who are prepared for the noise, alienation and jaw-drop stares from fascinated passers-by that makes it worth travelling to. You can also ensure that by the way you spend your money you can have a positive impact on the country.
A number of companies now offer trips to China with an emphasis on responsible habits, including trekking and cycling – no contribution to pollutants for you – and homestays with threatened ethnic minorities. With the emphasis on China’s natural wonders – lakes and mountains, rivers and pandas, travellers can underline the value of them in pristine states.
Of course, there’s great value to the Chinese authorities in damming rivers, but an alternative view can be useful. You can even spend a week restoring Terracotta Warriors or working on conservation projects. Where possible, make sure you spend your money with local people and avoid big chains that are gobbling up the emerging commerce in China.
See www.responsibletravel.com for more ideas.
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