|Pollution: does China really care?|
|Written by Pieter-Paul Walraven|
|Saturday, 12 May 2007|
Since the reforms in 1978 and the opening up of China for foreign investors, a sustainable economic growth has taken place. This can be seen as a good thing since it has had a generally positive effect on welfare and the standard of living for Chinese citizens. But besides the positive effects of the growing economy it also presents threats and has its downsides.
A growing economy means more and more energy and resources are needed to be able to satisfy the need of foreign investors and countries of export. This results in more factories, greater consumption, growing emissions and an increase in overall pollution in China. This is a problem and naturally it should be solved or even prevented from happening or getting worse, but the solution of the problem is not as straightforward as we are used to solve environmental issues. This has to do with the fact that China is a developing country (read relatively poor country). While pollution may be high on the agenda for richer and more developed countries, for China it is not a critical matter (yet). For China the development of a stable economy and a general increase and development of welfare is the primary goal and as we can observe from past actions it does not really care how this goal is reached; the environment is the victim of this.
Rich and poor
So wealth is closely related to coping with environmental damages. Undeniably there is a big difference in welfare between Mainland China and Hong Kong. And while Hong Kong is really trying to cope with its pollution problems and looking for solutions, it seems that Mainland China is only following and not taking the initiative. Of course China has made some efforts and is making promises about reducing emissions and solving the environmental problems but no structural changes seem to be happening. The fact that no statements can be found on the official website of China’s ministry of foreign affairs concerning the environment, illustrates this even more.
As you can see in these sets of images taken on different days there is a noticable difference between a 'clean' day and a smoggy day in Hong Kong.
China is still a developing country, this resulted in the situation that Mainland China’s environment policies are more based on the reaction on more developed countries complaints than based on their own initiative. It is almost like China does not care about the environment, it only cares about its economy and welfare, and it looks like the environment comes not even on a second place. China simply does not feel the responsibility yet and international pressure is needed in this issue.
A possible solution in this case could be the power of the customers. It should be the ‘customers’ task to make a point of the worsening environment and cross border pollution, other countries are suffering from. It is their task to demand so called clean products in order to prevent China from increasing their emissions even more. So Western and more developed countries can indirectly influence China’s emissions by making sure that all the products imported from China are made under certain circumstances. Initiatives of indirect these kinds of regulations already exist, for example look at human rights protection and the fight against child labor.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 12 May 2007 )|
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