For want of a hummer of green tunes
By Op Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-19 07:46

When a Chinese company acquires a Western counterpart, there is a shared sense of pride here. Our hearts swelled when Lenovo took over IBM's PC division four years ago. But we felt slighted when CNOOC's bid to take over California-based Unocal fell through because of political resistance. More recently, we felt cheated when Rio Tinto scrapped a deal with Chinalco.

For want of a hummer of green tunes

Now, what many consider heartening news has been doing the rounds in the country. Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co is likely to acquire GM's Hummer. It's indeed a matter of pride for a Chinese company to take over a GM wing. But is that necessarily good news?

A Hummer is significantly bigger than other SUVs and hence consumes more fuel. In fact, it can be called fuel-guzzler. Experts say that since Hummer's models H2 and H3 are built over the 8500-lb GVW class, the US Environmental Protection Agency hasn't published its fuel economy data. That means we don't know exactly how fuel-inefficient it is. No wonder, environmentalists see it as a symbol of ecological irresponsibility.

The popularity of SUVs in the US has increased Americans' fuel consumption. And since an SUV use more fuel than other cars, it emits higher volumes of pollutants, especially carbon dioxide. These behemoths are certainly not the vehicles of the future, and hence they do not conform to China's environmental policy. Even if most of the Hummers Tengzhong makes are exported, they will cause the same amount of damage to the environment because climate change knows no borders.

Tengzhong's bid for Hummer contradicts the very philosophy of our auto industry - or industry as whole. The Hummer, as a rich man's vehicle, is not representative of the future. Some Chinese experts have said it is not only environmentally unfriendly, but also a symbol of inequality, and hence does not fit into the country's desired political and social image.

The pride in acquiring something is one thing, and the value of that acquisition another. Indians felt the same pride when the Tatas acquired the Jaguar and Land Rover. In fact, the Indian media, albeit with exceptions, behaved as if the country had won a battle against its former colonial rulers. What they forgot in their frenzied celebrations is that the Jaguar, as a luxury car, causes more damage to the environment than smaller, fuel-efficient cars.

For want of a hummer of green tunes

Chinese and Indian companies have to keep the environment in mind while acquiring Western companies. Let's not forget that historically it's the West that's mostly responsible for global warming. We've seen at climate change conferences and forums that we can't persuade people in the West, especially the US, from even cutting down carbon footprint, which by any standard is very high. But at least we can choose not to acquire their polluting habits.

China's Scientific Outlook to Development is aimed at ensuring a better future for its people, and a better future includes a cleaner environment. The pride we feel when a Chinese company takes over a Western firm would ring hollow if the acquisition doesn't help the people.

Brands like the Hummer and Jaguar are something the rich are proud of. True, such acquisitions would provide jobs to some countrymen. But in the long run their contribution to society would not be worth the trouble of getting them. The race to acquire wealth has continued too long. Now is time to invest in people and their future, especially after the global economic crisis has shown how vulnerable money is to the whims of the times.

It is said pride goes before a fall. If we don't look to the future, the pride of acquiring a foreign company will go before an environmental fall.

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com

(China Daily 06/19/2009 page8)