Monday, September 10, 2007

A Smoking Hot China

So it says: "No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo." Along with the soaring economic growth, China's environmental problems have raised global concern. New York Times recently published a series of articles, multimedias, round-table talks addressing the impact of this issue.

Living in Beijing, I don't have to have others telling me how bad China's environment is, though I have not encountered problems with polluted drinking water yet, (that's for sure, I drink mineral), the air pollution in Beijing almost chokes me. It's like there is never a sunny clear day here. Always a haze.

Are the authorities blind of these obvious problems? Do they not know that their children is poisoned by lead and got all kinds of respiratory illnesses because of the air pollutants? The truth is they know and they do care. That's why Wen Jiabao introduced "Gree G.D.P." in 2004 in the hope that it would curtail regional governments' vigorous industrial development which is always at the expense of the environment. As the article pointed out, this plan demised because of the lack of enthusiasm, if not hatred for this concept. I would further argue that in some cases, it is exactly the Green G.D.P that is harming the environment: provincial leaders, in the desperate attempt to make up for the loss in G.D.P cost by the estimation of Green G.D.P would venture further to put a strain on the local industrial production.

In addition, let us not forget the huge demand of the cheap products from the developed countries such as the U.S.. While pointing fingers at the human rights violation such as child labor in Chinese factories and it's shoddy products, let us not forget it is because of the demand that such industry still prospers and to continue prosper, it is not likely they would abandon the old methods that cut the price and keep their products on the cutting edge. Such as in the event of large recall of Chinese toy products, a majority of Americans believe that the U.S. business that sell those products as well as the U.S. government also bear responsibility.

For any multifaceted issues, especially one such as environmental pollution, it is never enough to count on the efforts of one party. The pressure of the international community should not only lay on the Chinese government, but on the foreign businesses as well, and more importantly, to hurt, to condemn, or even to boycott, is never as feasible and rational as providing expertise: in terms of policy shaping, technology, etc. Aside from governmental cooperation, civil side as business and NGOs could take a stance in these issues, and in my opinion, these cooperation and assistance could be even more effective than high-level talks.

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