Although China is all about gross domestic product, one woman has made big Chinese corporations and the government realize that GDP and climate change are not always at odds with each other.
Wu Changhua is a woman who does not believe in dressing up. Every time I see her, she is either in a business suit or some kind of outdoor gear, as if she just came back from hiking the Great Wall. But she's definitely not as serious as she looks.
"We need to make everyone feel we live on the same planet," she said, "and that's just for starters."
As The Climate Group's Greater China director, she is a rare person whose opinion has not only affected Chinese government policy but also corporate behavior in China. She is all about changing attitudes here. "We need to make everyone feel we live on the same planet," she said, "and that's just for starters."
• More Daily Beast Coverage on the Women in ChinaIn an age in which every Chinese person chases after financial success, Wu is the exception. As a journalism student, she won a Fulbright in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, her fellowship ended in 1989, and she was sent back to China, straight into the post-Tiananmen Square political environment. "I did not want to stay in a state enterprise, particularly a news agency," she recalled. Instead, she joined a friend in founding the Environmental News in China.
"At the time, I just wanted a low-key job in journalism," Wu chuckled. "I thought Environmental News was all about whether the streets are properly swept in China." But this was her initiation into environmental issues in China, about two decades ahead of everyone else.
Wu's time as a journalist at the Environmental News launched her career as an environmental expert and gave her the connections she needed to affect policy changes later. As a journalist, she had traveled extensively throughout China and saw the environmental damage brought about by the high GDP growth rate.
Four years later, Wu was chosen to participate in a mid-career advancement program run by the World Press Association. She was recognized for her reporting on the growing environmental problems in China while others were focusing on the country's fabulous economic growth.
After her studies, she decided to stay in the United States and work for the World Research Institute, a think tank committed to sustainable growth. She joined The Climate Group two years ago in the United States, focusing on their expansion in China.
Within 12 months of arriving at her job, she had signed up China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator, as the first Chinese corporate member for The Climate Group. Soon after, two other major corporations joined. Her ability to walk into board rooms and convince them to take up the climate cause is unparalleled. Nowadays, Wu Changhua is also the go-to woman to offer policy advice for the Chinese government.
She is known to have encouraged the government to give incentives to the alternative energy industry, and it worked—China is now one of the major producers of alternative energy.
"Money is not the issue," Wu likes to tell her young employees. This statement baffles them, as they grew up believing money is everything. "Do something good, and do it well, and the money will follow you."
And isn't she the living proof of that?
Huang Hung is a columnist for China Daily, the English language newspaper in China. She is also an avid blogger with more than 100 million page views on her blog on sina.com.