Pollution, pollution

pollution-in-china-luguang1
The Tianjin Steel Plant in Hebei province.

Indescribably beautiful (if that’s the right word) photos by Lu Guang of the underbelly of China’s economic miracle, the part we all want to forget. Simply breathtaking in their eerie, terrible beauty.

If anything is to keep China from from becoming a true superpower, the smart money is on pollution.

Via Danwei.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 113 Comments

This is called industrialization. There is no such thing as clean industrialization. It has never happened in the history of humanity.

However with the onset of many new technology, China might be able to do a large chunk of its industrialization in a more sustainable fashion.

Guess which city this is, by the way:

http://www.trt.net.tr/medya/resim/2009/01/03/e3c3f0b6-f378-49f4-9e27-f59c278666dc-galeri.jpg

October 22, 2009 @ 2:22 pm | Comment

new technologies*

Likewise it should be said that “foreign experts” have calculated that 25-35% of China’s emissions come from import/export. It’s demand that creates supply.

Also, most calculations involving China’s emissions standards include Taiwan, which is sometimes at conflict with the poster’s perspective depending on the person.

Lastly, of all nations to convene at the recent “Climate Change” meeting (wherever it was) only Japan under the DPJ and Hatoyama and China made concrete pledges to cut emissions.

October 22, 2009 @ 2:24 pm | Comment

Merp, what you’re saying is kind of beside the point. China has industrialized in a hyper-industrial age, when masses of people have the ability to have a much greater negative impact on their surrounding environment than in the first Industrial revolution — which was certainly bad environmentally but much more limited in its effects. China’s industrialization is literally poisoning its population. Something like 70% of China’s rivers are dying. Lung cancer is a leading cause of death among urban young people.

From my limited perspective, I think there are some very smart people in the Chinese government who have real vision, who understand exactly the depth and magnitude of the environmental problems that China is up against. Whether they are able to effectively change policies in the face of the massive pressures of economic growth and corruption is still an open question. On paper, what they are proposing is truly impressive. But visionary regulations require regulator muscle, and it’s really not clear that they have the power to turn vision into reality.

I hope they succeed.

October 22, 2009 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

Er, that would be “regulatory.”

October 22, 2009 @ 4:59 pm | Comment

How else can china sustain 8% GDP growth, be the factory of the world, let the Western consumer enjoy all the products made in China? China is on the lowest end of the value chain, for every product, the Chinese worker works 12 hours of manual labor and get 1% of the profit, the American worker works 8 hours in an airconditioned office doing powerpoint presentations, and get 99% of profit. You dump all the production to China for low and reap the benefits back home, and you want to then blame China for pollution?

What about US, UK during your industrial revolution, all the way to 1930,40,50? Just look at the reports of pollution back then. You had your accumulated stock of unregulated pollution because you were lucky back then no one was there to nag you about it. You had your periods of brutal primitive accumulation that allowed your society to achieve the levels of wealth today, who was there to “expose” you? No one. So in that regard, yes you were lucky.

But now that you are rich, you put on a suit and want to lecture me about “social responsibility” and “morals”. That’s like a business who made his money through insider trading and ponzi scheming but never got caught because law enforcement and media was lax back in his days, and then turns around and talks everyday about obeying the law and giving back and all that nice things.

Hypocrisy, absolute hypocrisy.

October 22, 2009 @ 10:35 pm | Comment

Jiu, all I did was put up a picture and say pollution is China’s most serious problem. Where is the hypocrisy? Where is the lecture? Should we ignore the problem? Tell that to the people with cancer – in China and in America.

Flypaper for trolls.

Lisa is right about awareness of the problem. A key problem is enforcement at the local level, where enforcement is a nightmare due to corruption and greed. I think China is making a sincere effort to deal with this but the magnitude of the crisis is crushing.

October 22, 2009 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

Reminds me of the paintings of L.S. Lowry, robbed of all their cheer. I grew up in Lancashire, home of the industrial revolution, in the shadow of chimney stacks and mine-shaft elevators that had all fallen silent because they could no longer be run profitably, and had a Lowry print on my bedroom wall. There were and are many in that area who complain that whilst Britain was the first industrialised nation, we now no longer produce anything of note, and who pine for Britain’s days of industrial might. Not I. China is welcome to these “dark satanic mills”.

Here’s one of Lowry’s more famous works:

http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=699999961&workid=9026&searchid=10570&tabview=image

In fact, some of these pictures are more evocative of art from the first world war, particularly the piece “A Battery Shelled” by Wyndham Lewis.

October 22, 2009 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

@Jiulinghou -

Pure nonsense. Industrialisation had critics both numerous and powerful, from Blake and Orwell to Joseph Rowntree. What’s more, the industrial revolution in the UK occured in the 18th and 19th centuries, at a time when the whole idea of pollution was unknown, and the causes of cancer and deformity mysterious – how exactly was anyone to know about such things? Finally, look at the pictures for Christ’s sake! Are the pictures themselves hypocritical? Are the people in them seeking to mislead?

October 22, 2009 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

Big deal. You see the same billowing smoke coming from Pittsburgh up till 1980′s before they closed down.

October 23, 2009 @ 12:32 am | Comment

You can really look at the pictures and see the kids with cancer and say, “Big deal.” Just tell us, are you serious? You think it’s no big deal? Because China’s leaders think it is a huge deal.

October 23, 2009 @ 12:35 am | Comment

Tragic.

October 23, 2009 @ 12:50 am | Comment

Some of these comments make me wonder if the people leaving them even care about their own country. “Success at any price” is ultimately not success.

No less a personage than Pan Yue, Vice Minister at SEPA, has said that China’s economic miracle will end if environmental crises are not dealt with. I have a lot of admiration for him and others like him who are working very hard to address these problems.

Richard is right, the key problem is enforcement at a local level, where the pressure for economic growth encourages violation of environmental standards set by the central government.

And, speaking of hypocrisy…I love how Americans were greedy consumers, buying too much crap, etc. etc. etc. until we stopped buying so much crap. Now it’s like, “who’s gonna buy our crap?! We need you to consume to keep those factories running!”

Certain huge aspects of global capitalism are not healthy and are not sustainable on either side.

October 23, 2009 @ 2:30 am | Comment

Pollution in China is a tragedy, but without development it would be disastrous for China.

The better alternative is pollution reduction technology transfer from the West, which has been unreasonably restrictive.

The Chinese are living in today’s world, hoping for tomorrow’s life.

October 23, 2009 @ 3:15 am | Comment

Finally, a comment with which I can agree — though I don’t know how “unreasonably restrictive” the pollution reduction technology transfer has really been — I’d have to research that. Western companies would LOVE to sell that kind of technology to China. But they do want to get paid for it.

October 23, 2009 @ 3:21 am | Comment

Those early commenters love China so much that they even love the pollution!
Before I even read the comments, I could just guess the line of reasoning based upon the post “oh, it’s just industrialization…” etc.
In a sense, it’s clear that what they love is the idea of “China” rather than the people actually living there. It’s like those pathetic loners who argue that the Tiananmen Massacre was really “good” in that it guaranteed stability! What the hell is wrong with people who argue for massacring their fellow countrymen or giving them cancer for the sake of “national development”?

October 23, 2009 @ 4:47 am | Comment

Because without “national development”, the West will not back off. They will try to turn China into another Middle East- fragmented, occupied and oppressed by Americans and Europeans while Westerners suck them dry of resources, support horrific dictators, and fuel internecine conflict. When you face such untrustworthy potential enemies who are dogmatic, inflexible and blind you have do whatever it takes even if hundreds of thousands die.

This is essentially the story of Taiwan and Korea during the Cold War, and it applies to the opposition as well. If you remember, the Gwangju Massacre and 228 Massacre all claimed many more lives than Tiananmen.

Efficiency needs to be improved drastically, rule of law is needed and the local officials must be straightened out (with extreme prejudice) but growth must never be sacrificed. It must always be remembered that foreigners want a weak China and a weak East Asia that they can push around, which is exactly why American pressure groups are desperate to have the Japanese restrict the export of “clean coal” technologies to China.

If Westerners are so serious about their claimed belief in living in a “shared, globalized world”, they should at the very least pay reparations for their former industrial-imperialist past in the form of clean development subsidies.

October 23, 2009 @ 5:37 am | Comment

What the hell is wrong with people who argue for massacring their fellow countrymen or giving them cancer for the sake of “national development”?

You’re forgetting that 100,000 people dying of pollution is 1,000,000 people not dying of starvation, exposure, disease or foreign invasion.

Without a large industrial base, a country like China has no chance of survival. Generally I agree with Lisa, but I’m thinking the only solution to the problems are ones Westerners will not like.

For example, banning all wasteful luxury goods and poisonous Western media access and diverting all of that money into clean tech. The billions that urban yuppie scum give to France for perfumes and overpriced designer bags could provide relief for cancer patients and energy for the rural poor.

Oh and scummy, a few apathetic overseas Chinese (many of whom I am closely acquainted with) need to stop being so stingy.

October 23, 2009 @ 5:43 am | Comment

that is *a few scummy, apathetic overseas Chinese*

October 23, 2009 @ 5:45 am | Comment

Shorter Merp: Damned Westerners, everything is your fault!!!

Is that all you’ve got, Merp?

October 23, 2009 @ 7:10 am | Comment

What a convenient way to dismiss 400 years of genocide, enslavement, shadow games, imperialism and colonialism.

I take it you don’t know much history, if anything at all.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:13 am | Comment

Note that I also blamed West-loving yuppies and Overseas Chinese as well as the lack of rule of law and corrupt officials.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:13 am | Comment

Reading posts like the ones above from merp make me seriously wonder about the mental health of some of the commenters here. It is one thing to argue that industrialisation is necessary and that at least some sacrifices must be made, it is quite another to dismiss the clear evidence of incidents in which pollution occured unchecked and unnecessarily.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:14 am | Comment

Supposedly at least, incredibly inefficient factories are being closed down.

But that goes back into the “corrupt officials” thing. I’m guessing you just don’t like the fact that any really effective plan to “clean China up” will require a lot of de-Westernization.

Again, for many this isn’t really any attempt to “combat global warming” or “look after the health of the ‘Chinese People’ (trademark)”, but another platform through which Westerners can increase their already obscenely overgrown and undue influence on the world stage.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:28 am | Comment

JiuHongLiu and Merp have some points (much of the industrialization – and hence pollution in China – is due to demand from foreign countries) but they descend into nonsense when they start talking about “hypocrisy”. Only individuals can be hypocritical. If you can find some ex-industrialist from the 1930s who dumped industrial waste into a river and now writes critical articles about China they might have a point, but that is not what is happening.
Some people are just too thin-skinned. If you don’t like people criticizing China now, better stop developing. Americans are probably tired of being the country everybody loves to hate, methinks China is just about ready to take over that role and give them a rest.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:46 am | Comment

For example, banning all wasteful luxury goods and poisonous Western media access and diverting all of that money into clean tech. The billions that urban yuppie scum give to France for perfumes and overpriced designer bags could provide relief for cancer patients and energy for the rural poor.

Hm, sounds very 1950s Mao-style command-and-control economics. You would probably have to get advisors from North Korea if you wanted to implement it today.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:55 am | Comment

What a convenient way to dismiss 400 years of genocide, enslavement, shadow games, imperialism and colonialism.

Where did I dismiss these things? I have no illusions about what the ‘West’ is guilty of, my comment was about you and your “It’s all westerners fault” drivel.

Now let’s look at that drivel: Likewise it should be said that “foreign experts”… Because without “national development”, the West will not back off. They will try to turn China into another Middle East- fragmented, occupied and oppressed by Americans and Europeans while Westerners suck them dry of resources, support horrific dictators, and fuel internecine conflict… If Westerners are so serious about their claimed belief in living in a “shared, globalized world”… foreign invasion… but I’m thinking the only solution to the problems are ones Westerners will not like… poisonous Western media access… a few scummy, apathetic overseas Chinese… West-loving yuppies

Yes, Merp, you did have a sentence about rule of law and straightening out officials. However, it’s somewhat drowned out by all the “Blaargh Westerners!!!”

a few scummy, apathetic overseas Chinese… West-loving yuppies

Do these terms mean they’re not real Chinese like you?

October 23, 2009 @ 8:20 am | Comment

Good post, interesting comments. Lots of disagreement, but, at least people aren’t getting into an irrational flurry and saying things that make ABSOLUTELY no sense like what sometimes happens.

I also find it hard to understand the whole idea of killing such and such amount of people (such is forced communism er fascism) in order to please such and such so called bigger number (which I don’t agree with).

I do not think that poisoning people with pollution is the best way to make China strong, the same way I don’t think that the censorship and persecution there is a benefit, although the party can convince many people that these are good. Maybe if we can discuss calmly, then I could understand where this kind of belief comes from…

October 23, 2009 @ 8:31 am | Comment

Well, I know it’s well-known that if you hurt someone you can gain from it, specially if you sell the organs fresh from their living bodies as in the case of Falun Gong people. But I think Merp at least let me know why there is the mentality that many are willing to do a lot of damage for some certain goal which has to do with some kind of fear I guess. SO the Chinese should work out that fear, and the US should definitely reassure them that they won’t come and attack CHina or something. But, I think it’s to the CCPs benefit that things stay as they are, since they are sortof living in a cut-off world, living off the backs of the people and their ignorance and fear.

October 23, 2009 @ 8:35 am | Comment

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say ignorance (although that would be the natural result of brainwashing), but definitely fear…

By the way, in terms of pollution, isn’t it known that we need to change to a sustainable lifestyle, completely different from the extreme energy dependence that we live on now? Sustainable living is not that high tech in the grand sense. It’s kind old fashioned and simple. There’s a lot of tech stuff too, but I guess in general terms, don’t we just have to go back to working hard and buying locally kinda thing?

October 23, 2009 @ 8:39 am | Comment

And in CHina they have the benefit of old school technology and wisdom. If there is a real deal energy CRISIS, whose gonna perish? Those who live and breath oil, or those who know how to live without? We should be learning from the CHinese in that sense.

October 23, 2009 @ 8:41 am | Comment

Americans are probably tired of being the country everybody loves to hate, methinks China is just about ready to take over that role and give them a rest.

People hate America for its policies. People hate China because the West weaves lies about China and broadcasts them all over the world.

Do these terms mean they’re not real Chinese like you?

It just means they’re delusional.

specially if you sell the organs fresh from their living bodies as in the case of Falun Gong people

Doesn’t happen.

October 23, 2009 @ 10:36 am | Comment

Merp, you are pushing you luck again.

I realize China is paradisiacal, but no one pays snakeheads to get them from the US to China. So maybe it’s not quite so black and white. Your anti-Americanism is borderline insane. I am critical of America and of China; I realize both are imperfect. Your rants, on the other hand, boil down to “America evil, China sublime,” and are embarrassingly simplistic. And your tone is too nasty for me to tolerate. Do you want to go back on the Hold for Moderation list?

October 23, 2009 @ 10:41 am | Comment

Do these terms mean they’re not real Chinese like you?

It just means they’re delusional.

I’d like to know how you judge that… Do they not wear their jeans high enough?

October 23, 2009 @ 10:58 am | Comment

Actually, anyone who pays $10,000 dollars for a bag is crazy.

Your rants, on the other hand, boil down to “America evil, China sublime,”

Rather, it boils down to “West bad, China needs a lot of work”.

October 23, 2009 @ 11:06 am | Comment

Rather, it boils down to “West bad, China needs a lot of work”.

And?

October 23, 2009 @ 11:25 am | Comment

People hate America for its policies. People hate China because the West weaves lies about China and broadcasts them all over the world.

Many of the people who claim to hate America for its policies, hate it because it is big powerful and successful. Propagandists know this and weave lies about American policies. Are you sure China’s own state propaganda organs never do this? But that’s irrelevant. If China surpasses America and becomes the pre-eminent superpower then China will find itself in the same position America is now in, the ideological punching bag for people not happy with the state of the world. Don’t believe me? Wait and see.

To hear some people speak, they seem to think that when China really is rich and powerful other people “won’t dare” to criticize it. They’re dreaming. No country has ever been more powerful than America is now (except maybe America 20 years ago?) and people bad-mouth the US all the time and blame it for everything. China won’t be different.

Of course it’s still possible to disagree with American, Chinese policies or whatever being motivated by envy. Just pointing out that often that is not what happens.

October 23, 2009 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

Peter, it’s going to be a very long wait, I’m afraid. I do think China is rising and the US is declining, but we’re not going to see China take on the mantle of pre-eminent superpower anytime within our lifetime – and the theme of this post is a big part of that. Between the environment and corruption and the sheer size of its population, China is engaged in as uphill a battle as can be imagined. Totally agree with your point that as China grows richer it will be open to more criticism, not less. That’s always the case.

October 23, 2009 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

the ideological punching bag for people not happy with the state of the world.

You act like China is not already in this position. China has become a punching bag for “democrats” all over the world looking to boost their profile in the eyes of their public, mask their disastrous policies, or just score cheap points.

I doubt it will be much different in the future.

Between the environment and corruption and the sheer size of its population, China is engaged in as uphill a battle as can be imagined.

Corruption is something every country has to deal with while developing. Just as everything else improves with GDP and wealth, corruption will decrease. China is already less corrupt than the other “BRICs”.

For example CSB corruption created a 200+ billion dollar loss for Taiwan, over half of its GDP. At least in China one has yet to make 2 trillion dollars “vanish”, but that might happen some time in the future.

October 23, 2009 @ 12:59 pm | Comment

Other countries may be much more corrupt – and because of that they will be even farther away from being the No. 1 superpower. China is in the No. 2 position right now, but it’s still a long way from No. 1. Corruption, pollution, population size and rigid thinking such as yours will make it a very difficult battle. I wish them luck. The US is screwed, at least for the next few years, and China is in an excellent position. But the issues I named are a huge drag.

October 23, 2009 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

You know, I think the whole discussion about who is the #1 superpower and the #2 and so on is sort of…not on point. Because the way those rankings are determined strikes me as flawed. I prefer to look at overall quality of life. By those considerations, I would have to say that much of Western Europe (especially Scandinavia), Canada and maybe Australia & New Zealand are all ahead of both the US and China.

October 23, 2009 @ 2:48 pm | Comment

Who said that the US is screwed? Yes Obama is screwing the country, but as long as Fox News is there I see hope for the great country that is the United States of America.

October 23, 2009 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

@otherlisa

Yes, but you are a woman and therefore not biologically hard-wired to pursue the logic of most people on this forum ;)

The point is not quality of life or human rights, the point is to have a dong so big that everyone can see it (see one of Math’s previous posts about military power). Get it? :)

October 23, 2009 @ 8:09 pm | Comment

“They will try to turn China into another Middle East- fragmented, occupied and oppressed by Americans and Europeans while Westerners suck them dry of resources”

Paranoia at its sexiest. Go merp!

October 23, 2009 @ 10:19 pm | Comment

Agree with Lisa about the No 1 or 2 argument. But it’s a constant theme with my Chinese friends, the emergence of China as No. 1. If you’re measuring by quality of life, the photo above is especially relevant.

Merp is your quintessential fenqing, Stuart. He is here to antagonize and to spit out the cliches of the evil imperialist US and the wronged and maligned China, backed up by tortured reasoning and simplistic slogans. I don’t thing your argument will get very far.

October 23, 2009 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

@Resident Poet — ah. That explains a lot. Thanks! :)

October 24, 2009 @ 3:55 am | Comment

Merp, maybe there are a lot of excuses for the pollution and some stuff people criticize ‘China’ for, but in China the government does not have to answer to the people, only the party members who do it’s bidding. SO as long as party members are very happy, stealing from greater mass, then the gov’t is free to do what it likes as long as it keeps the media pumping out falsehoods. I’m just saying, you as a person might not be bad and worthy of that much criticism, but you, the people, are not whose running the ‘China’ show on the international scene. DOn’t you see that the gov’t is supressing the real people in CHina and even overseas Chinese? So, the ‘CHina’ that people often criticize, is not maybe the china in your mind, that reflects you real values. Usually when you have a democracy, the gov’t is more in line w/ some of the people’s’ real values, at least in some domains. But in CHina, the gov’t and the people are out of sinc. If you really do identify with the party, then are you really suprised that it gets criticized??? There are so many abuses of power to the extreme, it’s crazy!

October 24, 2009 @ 4:30 am | Comment

Quite apart from geo-political bickering and blame, those pictures are truly horrifying. Yes, I’m sure similar scenes could have been captured during the British industrial revolution or in countless other places during different times- but what’s the point being made?

Those pictures were taken now, that is happening now.

One of the arguments that frustrates me the most is that this sort of industrialization is “unavoidable” because that’s how countries industrialize. Oh yeah, is their some law of the universe which argues that nation-states on planet Earth must follow a particular industrialization path to the letter?

I know I’ve argued this before on this website, but I can’t buy this ahistorical “development model” schlock. Countries don’t develop in a vacuum- they develop within the specific context of their time and geo-political circumstances. Arguing that Western countries industrialized in a certain way so China must/will do the same is missing the point that it is now 2009, not 1850. There are 6 billion plus people on the earth and we are making an environmental disaster of it (yeah, all of us). Is it fair that the West got to industrialize at a time when it could monopolize resources and pollute with abandon? Maybe not. But that’s not the point- the point is whether the world of 2009 can handle what is going on.

There is no “natural” way for a country to develop- it is the outcome of specific human actions and decisions. So whatever one argues, it is hard to deny that China has chosen this path fully aware of the environmental implications of its actions. Is this malevolent? My guess is no, they are just operating on the standard but flawed assumptions of the “development model” in which countries mysteriously clean themselves up once they are financially wealthy. You can blame the environmental Kuznetz curve for that one: it’s a bitch to confuse the history of specific countries (ie the UK, US) with general abstract economy theory (as in “well that’s how they did so that must be how it will work for us”.)

Only problem with that is, financially wealthy countries cleaned themselves up by…ooops, dumping all the dirty work onto rapidly industrializing countries who buy into the nonsense that they can clean themselves up later by…doing what exactly? Dumping the mess onto the next guy to think they’ll pull off the same magic trick? On a finite planet, you eventually run out of suckers to sell the dream to.

It’s the circular logic of environmental suicide.

October 24, 2009 @ 5:13 am | Comment

This is an excellent point PB, as it underscore another absurdity in the CCP’s speech: Scientifically driven development.

The CPP is hammering the world with the fact that they won’t follow the Democracy or any “western” predefined model, arguing that their strategy is to take the best and filter the worse from such political models. So, following this logic, what is preventing them from learning from our 200+ years of industrialization process and the mistakes we made? Does their thinking only applies when it suits their own political agenda, and not the well being of billions of their very own people. Very convenient, isn’t it? Sounds like the usual elitist crap to me. Same old crap rhetoric, but different country. Globalization anyone?

China doesn’t have to completely trash the environment to develop. And I would actually say that by doing so, it’s just showing to the world, that they did not learn anything at all. Sounds like a country afflicted by a serious A.D.D syndrome to me.

October 24, 2009 @ 6:45 am | Comment

And now, they are begging for the “western nations” to transfer clean technologies. To my knowledge, they are not begging for the same knowledge applicable to their political model?

Why is that so? Selective begging and hypocrisy?

October 24, 2009 @ 7:18 am | Comment

@Richard
Other countries may be much more corrupt – and because of that they will be even farther away from being the No. 1 superpower. China is in the No. 2 position right now, but it’s still a long way from No. 1. Corruption, pollution, population size and rigid thinking such as yours will make it a very difficult battle.

Who says China wants to “beat the US”? For the most part they just want a reasonably comfortable life. That and restoring the nation after years of corruption, infighting, foreign interventions and genocides.

But it’s a constant theme with my Chinese friends, the emergence of China as No. 1.

You’re hanging around the wrong people. I spend more time in the rural areas than the urban though, I guess that’s why.

Merp is your quintessential fenqing, Stuart. He is here to antagonize and to spit out the cliches of the evil imperialist US and the wronged and maligned China

You just described stuart, not me. Except stuart is a fenwai and an apologist for the British Empire. Or a crappeyouthe as I have heard.

@Other Lisa
I would have to say that much of Western Europe (especially Scandinavia), Canada and maybe Australia & New Zealand are all ahead of both the US and China.

Lucky for them America can’t bomb them to drill their HDI, or a Republican administration might consider it. Then again Bhutan is one of the happiest nations in the world, so maybe we’re all idiots compared to them.

@stuart
Paranoia at its sexiest. Go merp!

Oh yeah because the West has no history of intervention in the Middle East, or Southeast Asia, or Latin America.

@snow
Merp, maybe there are a lot of excuses for the pollution and some stuff people criticize ‘China’ for, but in China the government does not have to answer to the people

Almost no government in the world answers to the people. I think the closest to “answer to the people” is when monarchs were beheaded a few centuries ago. Now people answer to bankers, lobbyists, the military, elites. “The people” have a tiny voice, and it’s often directed by media moguls, churches and often random stupidity.

SO as long as party members are very happy, stealing from greater mass, then the gov’t is free to do what it likes as long as it keeps the media pumping out falsehoods

My great uncle spent the last 98 years in the PRC and he doesn’t believe a word they say. This true all over China. Perhaps not in yuppie-ville where many expats are stationed.

DOn’t you see that the gov’t is supressing the real people in CHina and even overseas Chinese?

No? Don’t you see that you’re completely at disconnect with Chinese people including the Overseas Chinese? *Most* of the outrage at Western media bias comes from Overseas Chinese. The mainlanders don’t really know what’s going on, because the CCP censors to your benefit. Almost all anti-Chinese activity on the part of foreigners is blacked out. If the CCP wants to fan nationalism they take off the blinders, and naturally everyone gets pissed.

Usually when you have a democracy, the gov’t is more in line w/ some of the people’s’ real values,

Usually? No. You want to source that? I’m guessing by “usually when you have a democracy” you’re talking about Switzerland and Scandinavia.

If you really do identify with the party, then are you really suprised that it gets criticized??? There are so many abuses of power to the extreme, it’s crazy!

What is this even supposed to mean? Of course I don’t identify with the party. But I know they aren’t all bad and that they’re definitely not as bad as your so-called “free media” portrays them as. You see, unlike most Westerners (and people in general) I get my information online from multiple sources spanning several decades. Unlike most posters here I wasn’t raised on Cold War propaganda either (regardless of which side it was from).

@PB
Those pictures were taken now, that is happening now

Yes? If anything it’s better it happens now than then- pollution is easier to clean up nowadays.

One of the arguments that frustrates me the most is that this sort of industrialization is “unavoidable” because that’s how countries industrialize. Oh yeah, is their some law of the universe which argues that nation-states on planet Earth must follow a particular industrialization path to the letter?

Not a law of the universe. Laws of economics and geopolitics, which often have far more concrete and proven results.

Arguing that Western countries industrialized in a certain way so China must/will do the same is missing the point that it is now 2009, not 1850.

China is *not* developing like the West. The West didn’t get 10% of its energy from hydropower when it was industrializing. Slavery and taxation-unto-death is also technically a “green” activity, since dying millions only produce fleeting noise pollution and become oil or gas reserves later…

Maybe not.

The questions don’t end there. Is it fair? Well no, but the West could combat pollution effectively if they wanted. With all of the world’s best agricultural land, control of 75% of the world’s assets and occupation of 45-50 million km^2 of the world’s 130 km^2 non-Antarctica/Greenland territory, your actions simply do not match your words. That’s part of the reason why so many developing countries are plugging their ears.

it is hard to deny that China has chosen this path fully aware of the environmental implications of its actions.

Since you are an expert on China’s path, and I’m not saying this as a challenge, I’m sure you can fill us in on their 2006-2011 five year plan, the economic stimulus, and other aspects of their environmental policy? Last I heard the central government was demanding that one old coal plant be closed down for every new one, and talks were underway with the Hatoyama gov’t about sustainability and especially clean coal.

@Bao
China doesn’t have to completely trash the environment to develop. And I would actually say that by doing so, it’s just showing to the world, that they did not learn anything at all. Sounds like a country afflicted by a serious A.D.D syndrome to me.

I’d agree. China doesn’t need to trash the environment to develop. But in order to accomplish that you need some level of authoritarianism and *gasp* protectionism. Something China definitely does not need to import is Western fiscal tendencies and materialistic ambition.

And now, they are begging for the “western nations” to transfer clean technologies. To my knowledge, they are not begging for the same knowledge applicable to their political model?

Because their political model is not applicable to China. So much for you all suggesting that China’s development is context specific. Look, if China were like America the world would already be Venus, so enough with that.

October 24, 2009 @ 9:02 am | Comment

rather last 98 years on the mainland, not the PRC

October 24, 2009 @ 9:05 am | Comment

Sorry merp, you lost me with your “laws of economics and geopolitics” comment. Neither of these are exactly sciences, who are we kidding?

I’m also lost on your argument about the West being able to combat pollution effectively “if it wanted”. Well, uh, couldn’t you say the same about China? Furthermore, if I follow the logic of your argument, you are saying that China can pollute more because it has less arable land, resources and more population pressure than Western countries? That seems counterintuitive to me.

October 24, 2009 @ 9:31 am | Comment

More like you have more resources available to you- in most part due to imperialism and genocide.

Sorry merp, you lost me with your “laws of economics and geopolitics” comment. Neither of these are exactly sciences, who are we kidding?

What do you suggest as far as policy goes?

October 24, 2009 @ 9:47 am | Comment

One of the arguments that frustrates me the most is that this sort of industrialization is “unavoidable” because that’s how countries industrialize. Oh yeah, is their some law of the universe which argues that nation-states on planet Earth must follow a particular industrialization path to the letter?

One of the arguments that frustrates me the most is that this sort of democratization is “unavoidable” because that’s how countries modernize. Oh yeah, is their some law of the universe which argues that nation-states on planet Earth must follow a particular political system to the letter?

Arguing that Western countries industrialized in a certain way so China must/will do the same is missing the point that it is now 2009, not 1850.

Arguing that Western countries democratized in a certain way so China must/will do the same is missing the point that it is now 2009, not 1850.

China doesn’t have to completely trash the environment to develop. And I would actually say that by doing so, it’s just showing to the world, that they did not learn anything at all.

You don’t think this is a topic all thinkers and policy makers struggle with every single day?

Submit a proposal on how to keep robust economic growth, technological progress, military modernization, increasing urbanization, decreasing poverty, increasing living standard, increasing personal income and at the same time vastly reduce emissions and improve air quality. I believe the next Nobel Economics Prize will be yours. I’m serious.

October 24, 2009 @ 9:48 am | Comment

I’d say increasing R&D by a few hundred billion and making an effort to draw accomplished Overseas Chinese inventors and engineers back for one

October 24, 2009 @ 10:12 am | Comment

“…an apologist for the British Empire.”

Research has indicated the potential for a 30% reduction in harmful emissions if the Chinese can throw of the shackles of resentment caused by their hard-wired historical prejudices.

30% !! Imagine that! China could be so clean – an example to us all.

But no. If China were to stop airbrushing its historical view of the world, the smog will clear and people will see that all their colonial grievances are yesterday’s news. And China prefers to keep the chip on its shoulder and the air stays polluted with the particles of nationalism.

Just to be clear, I was nowhere near the Old Summer Palace in 1860 – and I can prove it. Do you feel the smog clearing?

I didn’t think so. It’s the reason you’re always choking, old sport.

October 24, 2009 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Green technology and a commitment to improving the environment can be its own source of growth and economic stimulus. The factories who are forced to comply with stricter standards may be spending money they’d rather not spend, but the companies manufacturing the technology make money from it — and no, actually, I don’t think Western companies are obligated to “transfer” their technologies to China without being properly compensated for it. Look, China is either a great power or it isn’t. You don’t get to strut around and trumpet “China’s Rise” and call yourself #1 on the one hand and then ask for handouts on the other. Spending on green technology is a great way to invest some of those reserves of foreign currency. It’s good for everyone, and as this economic crisis has amply illustrated, we live in an interconnected global economy.

The other side of this is that the health costs associated with pollution and the environmental crisis are a significant drag on China’s economy. Well, I guess they encourage growth in the medical sector, but as the ongoing struggle with health care reform in the US illustrates, it’s not exactly productive because medical care as a profit-center is a disaster for everyone but the profiteers and is ultimately not sustainable.

I understand (and sympathize) that China’s central government is engaged in a delicate balancing act, promoting growth to keep people working while trying to get a handle on environmental problems that are literally killing the workforce. I do think there are some very smart people who are committed to doing the right thing. But a huge problem is that China’s political and legal systems are not equipped to manage the activities of powerful actors at a local level. There’s no competing political power, the press is muzzled and lawyers acting for the laobaixing are being jailed at an alarming rate. How does the central government think they will be able to monitor, much less control, the corruption that is endemic to so many local governments?

Given the dysfunction and utter gridlock we are experiencing in the States and the corrupt collusion between business interests and politicians, I’m the last person to go around trumpeting the superiority of the American system at this point. We’ve got huge huge problems to overcome and no easy or obvious solution in sight.

But I do think there are some fundamental structural problems with the Chinese system as it currently stands that will make it very difficult to get a handle on the environmental crisis. And pretending these problems are insignificant, inevitable or someone else’s fault is a piss-poor way of dealing with their reality.

October 24, 2009 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

JiuLinghou,

When did democratization come into the argument? I didn’t go there, and don’t understand why you took my remarks off on your tangent.

Anyways, one of the more interesting things about this whole discussion is the strength of the blame game that continues (“The West did that, China did this”). But in reality the lines are getting much blurrier- I’m Canadian, and one of the major environmental issues here is the development of the oil sands. I will admit, it is probably one of the most environmentally destructive projects on earth, despite what the industry spin doctors say. Unfortunately, the Chinese gov’t is making major investments in them, leading some to proclaim the revival of the oil sands. So it now goes both ways.

Besides, the defensiveness over Chinese politics/economics that is exhibited in comments on sites like this really mystifies me. It is clear that many who criticize China’s environmental situation on a site like this do so not out of some innate vindictiveness for the country, but rather as a part of a larger criticism of GLOBAL industrialization and environmentally destructive development trends which, let’s be honest, Western countries set loose and yes also continue to foster. Notice I am taking to task the whole idea of an ahistorical “development model”- and I think it is a source of problems FOR China, as it is one of the states which has most fiercely adopted this idea, a component of which is the “make a mess and clean up later because that’s how the model says it works” point of view.

By negating any questions of this model, where is the real change going to come from?
A young Westerner in 2009 asks “wow, there is really something wrong with the global industrial-economic complex as it is today”, and the response is “Your ancestors did this, you have no right to question anything!” What is constructive about that? Isn’t it GOOD that young Westerners start wondering about the “development” truths we’ve been spoonfed?

Just because I think China’s environmental problem is based on short-sightedness on the part of the CCP doesn’t mean I support Western imperialism, slavery or who knows what. This sort of ludicrous leap of logic is often made around here and it gets very tiresome.

Guess what? I also think the Canadian federal gov’t's energy and climate policy is myopic, short-sighted and intellectually corrupted by oil money. I’ve written about that before, and heck no I don’t vote for them. But wasn’t this article about pollution in China?

October 24, 2009 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

China just says “give us money” to shut the West up when they get too preachy. They don’t really mean it. They know the last thing in the world the West will ever do is take responsibility for their actions and give anyone anything for free without the expectation of at least political/image rewards.

Likewise while local authorities are a huge problem China’s authoritarianism lets them ban free plastic bags and set incredibly high efficiency standards without anyone being able to complain about it; and local officials are increasingly being taken to task for their actions.

You have to admit corruption in China isn’t nearly as bad as say India, whose only saving grace is that it is growing much slower.

October 25, 2009 @ 12:20 am | Comment

Richard, is something wrong with the comments? I’ve been trying to post one without much success.

October 25, 2009 @ 12:52 am | Comment

When did democratization come into the argument? I didn’t go there, and don’t understand why you took my remarks off on your tangent.

Anyways, one of the more interesting things about this whole discussion is the strength of the blame game that continues (“The West did that, China did this”). But in reality the lines are getting much blurrier- I’m Canadian, and one of the major environmental issues here is the development of the oil sands. I will admit, it is probably one of the most environmentally destructive projects on earth, despite what the industry spin doctors say. Unfortunately, the Chinese gov’t is making major investments in them, leading some to proclaim the revival of the oil sands. So it now goes both ways.

Besides, the defensiveness over Chinese politics/economics that is exhibited in comments on sites like this really mystifies me. It is clear that many who criticize China’s environmental situation on a site like this do so not out of some innate vindictiveness for the country, but rather as a part of a larger criticism of GLOBAL industrialization and environmentally destructive development trends which, let’s be honest, Western countries set loose and yes also continue to foster. Notice I am taking to task the whole idea of an ahistorical “development model”- and I think it is a source of problems FOR China, as it is one of the states which has most fiercely adopted this idea, a component of which is the “make a mess and clean up later because that’s how the model says it works” point of view.

By negating any questions of this model, where is the real change going to come from?
A young Westerner in 2009 asks “wow, there is really something wrong with the global industrial-economic complex as it is today”, and the response is “Your ancestors did this, you have no right to question anything!” What is constructive about that? Isn’t it GOOD that young Westerners start wondering about the “development” truths we’ve been spoonfed?

Just because I think China’s environmental problem is based on short-sightedness on the part of the CCP doesn’t mean I support Western imperialism, slavery or who knows what. This sort of ludicrous leap of logic is often made around here and it gets very tiresome.

Guess what? I also think the Canadian federal gov’t's energy and climate policy is myopic, short-sighted and intellectually corrupted by oil money. I’ve written about that before, and heck no I don’t vote for them. But wasn’t this article about pollution in China?

October 25, 2009 @ 12:53 am | Comment

Isn’t it GOOD that young Westerners start wondering about the “development” truths we’ve been spoonfed?

Not good enough. Just like how China having higher emissions standards than America, planting hundreds of millions of trees every year, spending the most on renewables research, creating almost all of the world’s CFLs and a huge bulk of the solar panels, pioneering the sale of electric cars, getting 10%+ of its power from hydropower, closing old coal plants for every new one, etc is not enough.

October 25, 2009 @ 1:08 am | Comment

Now that I think of it it really isn’t enough, but still it’s not like they’re doing nothing.

October 25, 2009 @ 1:08 am | Comment

Merp, I can tell you are a smart guy/gal, but I don’t catch your arguments sometimes. China gets 10% of its power from hydropower? Ok, go find the % of hydropower in the energy mix for Canada and tell me what you find. How about power mix in Europe? Germany gets almost 20% of its electricity from renewables. Here in Quebec, Hydro-Quebec is all over electric vehicle development and an array of incentives for home energy efficiency and geo-exchange installations. Meanwhile, in the US there is a significant amount of activity going on at the private level in terms of clean technology and sustainable energy investment, and yes this even started while that joker Bush was still in office.

I guess even us “evil imperialists” are starting to get the message. At least I hope!

On a side note, closing down old coal plants when commissioning a new one doesn’t address GHC emission problems. They are cleaner in the particulate matter department and slightly more efficient, but last time I checked Carbon Capture and Storage has yet to even exist on a useful, commercial scale for power generation facilities. I personally think this is a dead end driven by coal lobby power in the US- so coal makes sense because it is “cheap and abundant”, apparently. But throw in a need for CCS and that argument goes out the window- capturing, moving and burying mass amounts of CO2 sounds like the antithesis of “cheap and easy” to me. So I find it frustrating that coal plants continue to get built (and, honestly, much more so in China than in the US where local politics and uncertainty over regulation is blocking most new ones) with the idea that CCS will sort it out in the future. Either that, or it’s just an admission of not truly caring about climate change implications.

October 25, 2009 @ 1:56 am | Comment

Ok, go find the % of hydropower in the energy mix for Canada and tell me what you find

Oh right, and we have Canada’s super clean oil exports to America. Norway is similarly clean “on paper” but of course exports a lot of emissions. You would definitely not get away with a renewable-only economic model. If you’re talking global responsibility only Iceland is 100% renewable, too bad hot air applied to their economy too :P

The best way to calculate a nation’s emissions and pollution factor is to take into account their imports (of ‘dirty’ goods produced out of country) and exports (of polluting products, most of which are fossil fuels).

But of course that’d make China look a lot better, so it’s never going to happen. And I’m sure US-based organizations will snipe any wiki entries, just like how they sniped the land-use change tabulations for co2 emissions (you can look, the pngs are still on the servers but the page itself is gone).

Germany gets almost 20% of its electricity from renewables

Sounds great, except China is heavily industrial. The sheer environmental cost of say, moving all manufacturing from China to India would be tremendous. India or Southeast Asia’s lack of infrastructure and poor energy policies as well as massive deforestation and population density would create issues.

I’m yet to be convinced that Germany could create an industrial economy of China’s scale without massive pollution as well.

So I find it frustrating that coal plants continue to get built (and, honestly, much more so in China than in the US where local politics and uncertainty over regulation is blocking most new ones) with the idea that CCS will sort it out in the future.

China is doing a lot of researching and building. iirc not even counting the stimulus, they have the most money invested into clean tech as of 08/09. Separately, they have the most resources invested into reducing energy intensity. Emissions standards for transport are also high, and there are taxes for consumer-side emissions/pollution. The thorn in their side is local officials running amok, but I haven’t heard much news on that front. They are increasingly being prosecuted though, as they meet increasing criticism from the general population.

Admittedly, if I were in charge in China, I’d keep a few things under wraps and stall a little to gauge foreign perception and see what we can convince the (largely responsible for almost all pollution) developing countries to be less hypocritical.

October 25, 2009 @ 2:09 am | Comment

At the risk of beating a dead horse here, the problem is not what the Chinese government is doing on paper and in many cases in reality — the problem is getting local governments to comply with the standards. And cleaning up the existing issues to an acceptable standard…that is a long, hard road. One thing I have read and I don’t know if this is still true — some people at SEPA complain that they simply aren’t given the enforcement budget to compel local governments to comply with the regulations.

I live in a state — California — that for all its current budget problems has done some things very well (I’ll leave off ranting about the poor state of mass transit here for now). We’ve led the nation in clean air regulations and energy conservation. If the entire US had adopted some of California’s conservation policies back in the 70s, we’d be looking at a very different energy picture in the States. Air quality has improved since the 60s as well. It can be done (I also think of river restoration project that have worked — was it the Ohio River that used to catch on fire from the oil and chemicals dumped in it?), but it takes a lot of effort, and you have to have real enforcement mechanisms to make it work. This is the biggest question to me about environmental policy in China. If the will is really there, can the government and legal system apply that will in a meaningful way?

October 25, 2009 @ 4:05 am | Comment

Oh, and what PB said. Environmentalists tend to be more global than nationalistic in their outlook. I think I even said a version of what he/she said upstairs a ways — the global industrial system as a whole has some serious flaws. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know how to fix it, but I have a sense that smaller-scale, more localized manufacturing of a lot of stuff might be a good start.

October 25, 2009 @ 4:09 am | Comment

“Oh right, and we have Canada’s super clean oil exports to America”.

Merp, I guess you skipped over my point on which national government has recently put major money into the Canadian oil sands via PetroChina. Thanks for helping us out!

You also completely ignored the point about CCS and coal plants- I applaud the other initiatives you mention, but they have nothing to do with coal-fired power generation.

Look, many of your points about the problems with Western countries and “exported” pollution are valid. I’m not arguing with you there (have you not read my previous comments?) I think it makes sense to look at emissions and pollution from a transnational supply chain perspective. The whole global industrial complex is the problem. But on the flip side no one forced China to become the industrial sinkhole of the world, that is the result of specific domestic choices over the past two decades. Western companies and consumers are complicit in this for sure, but what happens when there is talk of looking at the environmental impact of various products and taxing pollution? China starts screaming about the evils of trade protectionism. It can’t go both ways- you can’t argue that Chinese industrial pollution is driven by Western demand, and then go up in arms when there are signs the Western demand doesn’t want “dirty” products anymore. Do you want us to be responsible consumers or not?

And please let’s stop pretending China is environmentally benign on the world stage. Like I said before, the connections are getting so complex that it all goes both ways now. No American Imperialist is forcing illegally logged African tropical hardwood onto boats for shipment to China for DOMESTIC use there. That is a direct local-to-Chinese connection. But I get the feeling that in this case you might blame the local African officials for being lax while the Chinese are just “doing business”. But isn’t this the same argument you’d decry if it was flipped to a Western company in China situation?

Western countries have not really solved their environmental problems, you are 100% right on that. Many of them have just gone overseas and re-appear in a nice shiny finished product at a port. I am fully aware of this and support your view of more complex emissions footprint analysis. But at the same time, China could just as easily say “we are not making this dirty junk for you anymore”. As far as I can tell, Western consumer product companies don’t run the CCP.

As a Canadian I take responsibility for my country’s mess and do what I can to minimize it. I vote against the Conservatives whenever elections come up (which they do often these days it seems!) because I think their obsession with the oil sands is very destructive, I don’t own a car, I bike to work, I compost, I recycle and I try as much as I can to limit the amount of useless consumer junk that enters my home. Heck, I even work in the field of clean technology investments.

I get that Western govts are hypocritical to the max on these topics…but guess what? I don’t like it either, just like yourself. So I think we agree on that. But if I’m against Chinese money going into the oil sands (as I would be against money from anywhere) because I think more oil sands development is the last thing the world needs, are you going to say I’m hypocritical?

If Western consumers should be taken to task for dumping pollution on China, shouldn’t drivers in, say, Beijing, be taken to task for the environmental destruction caused by Chinese-funded oil sand projects in Canada?

It works both ways.

October 25, 2009 @ 4:17 am | Comment

“Does their thinking only applies when it suits their own political agenda, and not the well being of billions of their very own people. Very convenient, isn’t it? Sounds like the usual elitist crap to me. Same old crap rhetoric, but different country. Globalization anyone?”

“Environmentalists tend to be more global than nationalistic in their outlook. ”

I feel sometimes, like I’m the invisible man speaking to a blind audience. Is it because of the way that I phrase things? Or is it too cryptic for people to understand what I’m speaking about?

I think I need to work on that, to make the message clearer somehow.

“the global industrial system as a whole has some serious flaws”

Much more than that Lisa, it is fueled by the following magic thinking. ETERNAL GROWTH!, Forever and EVER!.

Capitalism IS the answer and the only and one MODEL WE SHOULD FOLLOW!

Have you ever thought about the absurdity of such model? Eternal growth? Is our planet a finite system? Do we have access to infinite resources and land space?

This model is wrong, plain and simple. It is a selfish and very American view of the world, where all that matters is the well being of the fat slobs that eat their ice creams at the Dairy Queen on X popular X American dream avenue.

The American dream is unsustainable and the biggest lie that ever occurred to humans in our lifetime. It is an abomination of over consumption. No wonder that 50%+ of the Americans look like blobs from out space.

The world is all about balance, and now, we are in this exact phase: Distribution of growth as a race, on a global scale.

The world is waking up right now. Globally, to the fact that they won’t accept the American influence anymore. I say one thing, good for them. The world is not the U.S of awesome. The world is much more diverse than that.

How can you be surprised when people are spewing their disdain for America and their values. Just think for one second how you would feel, if you were not a citizen of the U.S of Awesome. If your entire life was guided and controlled by a remote nation and their very own agenda. This is absurd beyond understanding. I understand a hundred percent how the Chinese people are feeling. They are just saying one simple thing: We will not play your game, and go fuck yourself. We are the master of our very own destiny. Not you!

I deeply hate the CPP, but I love the Chinese people, as they might be the only representative of the human race left on this earth right now. Close to their heart, true, and strong and combative. Fuck their government, but all my love goes to them, to the people.

October 25, 2009 @ 4:40 am | Comment

“we are in this exact phase:”

we are in this exact correction phase:

October 25, 2009 @ 4:53 am | Comment

@Bao, who said “Much more than that Lisa, it is fueled by the following magic thinking. ETERNAL GROWTH!, Forever and EVER!.”

I quite agree. I meant at some point in this discussion to say that the eternal growth model preached both in the States and in China reminds me of “eternal growth” in biology — it’s cancer.

October 25, 2009 @ 4:57 am | Comment

I think you are spot on Lisa, Cancer is the perfect term for it. Planetary cancer it is, indeed.

October 25, 2009 @ 4:58 am | Comment

I’d also say…though this really is getting off-topic…the “American Dream” is changing (and changed a long time ago for a certain percentage of the population), in part from necessity and in part from choice. You see a lot of movement back into old urban centers, where there’s mass transit, amenities, culture, it’s walkable; and away from exurbs. The trade-offs are usually a smaller living space, smaller yards or no yards, etc., but what you get in return is an actual community.

Some urban theorists predict that exurbs, deprived of mass transit and walkable businesses, will become the new slums…we’ll see.

October 25, 2009 @ 5:04 am | Comment

But on the flip side no one forced China to become the industrial sinkhole of the world

Do you really believe that? I mean pick any date from the late 1800s and on, and you will always find some entity “pressuring” China into industrializing. China didn’t industrialize when Japan did, look what happened then.

but what happens when there is talk of looking at the environmental impact of various products and taxing pollution? China starts screaming about the evils of trade protectionism

If such a measure were to go in place, industrialized nations should be retroactively taxed. That and moving production out of China will be no help unless people in developed nations find a way to produce billions of tons of extra stuff with a small manufacturing base, entirely clean.

signs the Western demand doesn’t want “dirty” products anymore. Do you want us to be responsible consumers or not?

You should stop buying junk period; and you’re assuming Western products are clean- they are not. So if this could be fairly done, I wouldn’t have much of a problem. However it will not be, and if even considered, anti-Chinese pundits would have the prices ramped up too high to be fair.

That is a direct local-to-Chinese connection. But I get the feeling that in this case you might blame the local African officials for being lax while the Chinese are just “doing business”. But isn’t this the same argument you’d decry if it was flipped to a Western company in China situation?

Both are breaking laws; however I question why the logging is “illegal” in specific areas and not others. In my opinion America should turn New York into a forest again.

shouldn’t drivers in, say, Beijing, be taken to task for the environmental destruction caused by Chinese-funded oil sand projects in Canada?

But that wouldn’t be necessary if Americans could conserve oil… so we get back to the root of the problem.

@Bao
Have you ever thought about the absurdity of such model? Eternal growth?

No one is saying “eternal growth”, I don’t think.

The American dream is unsustainable and the biggest lie that ever occurred to humans in our lifetime. It is an abomination of over consumption. No wonder that 50%+ of the Americans look like blobs from out space.

lol

October 25, 2009 @ 7:16 am | Comment

Come to Los Angeles and make that “blob” comment. I dare ya! :) We are the capital of Size 0, don’t you know…

Speaking of sustainable lifestyles, I’m off to run my errands. On foot. As is my habit.

Think globally, buy locally!

October 25, 2009 @ 7:23 am | Comment

I wouldn’t do it. Getting shot by Crips and Chicano gangs is not good.

October 25, 2009 @ 7:25 am | Comment

Oh them and MS-13

October 25, 2009 @ 7:26 am | Comment

“But of course that’d make China look a lot better, so it’s never going to happen.”

Nor should it. The production you speak of lies at the heart of China’s economic ‘miracle’. You can’t have it both ways – a concept that is a touch alien to Beijing.

October 25, 2009 @ 8:13 am | Comment

That production is also at the heart of “Western” economic stability, and I guess only “Westerners” can have it both ways.

You fucking idiot troll.

October 25, 2009 @ 8:27 am | Comment

“You fucking idiot troll.”

You’re just too easy for me, merpington old sport.

October 25, 2009 @ 10:13 am | Comment

You’re too easy for everyone, always whining about “foreigner genocide” (your words, not mine)

October 25, 2009 @ 10:33 am | Comment

@merp — coward!

I am back from my walk, unshot, unmolested, well-exercised, having enjoyed another beautiful late afternoon/early evening in lovely Venice CA — clean air, beautiful people and all…I know, I know. We can’t all live in paradise…

October 25, 2009 @ 11:13 am | Comment

That’s a long walk!

October 25, 2009 @ 11:21 am | Comment

I do 6 miles pretty routinely. This was actually an hour walk and then a glass of wine and dinner at my local joint and then a walk home. I admit it, I’m spoiled where I live. It’s a wonderful place.

October 25, 2009 @ 11:28 am | Comment

6 miles… avoiding all the bad parts of the city of course :P

October 25, 2009 @ 11:34 am | Comment

Well, I’m in Venice. I suppose we have bad parts but I walk through them anyway. A lot of it is perception.

I walk to Santa Monica a lot and also up to Palms and all around there. I still have a car but drive it maybe once a week. I’m all about the walking lifestyle. I may at some point move to San Francisco, just because it has all of this and better public transport. You really don’t need a car there, and I like that.

For that reason, my favorite neighborhood in Beijing is Dongcheng around the Drum Tower. Love it! I also love that BJ has built all of the subways in recent years but still saddened that so much of the development there is not to human scale. People need neighborhoods to live in, not unwalkable streets and high-rises. I’m always pleased that little areas like Tuanjie Hu have managed to hang in there in the face of relentless development.

I was also really favorably impressed with Qingdao — made my first visit there recently after some 30 years of traveling to China. That’s a nice, livable city. I hope they manage to successfully preserve what’s left of the older architecture, because it really is charming. And the new city isn’t bad either, from what I saw of it.

And I will admit — I loved Dali. I don’t care if it’s a tourist trap. What a beautiful place.

October 25, 2009 @ 11:45 am | Comment

I’d love to go to Yunnan someday

October 25, 2009 @ 11:51 am | Comment

Oh, you should. It’s gorgeous.

October 25, 2009 @ 11:54 am | Comment

“(your words, not mine)”

A typical misattribution tactic of those pushing agendas on China blogs – closely related to the deliberate misrepresentation ploy.

When you choose insult over civil disagreement it’s game over, merp.

Nevertheless, I’m prepared to believe that maturity might bring a little more nuance and tolerance to your responses in the future, at which point I’ll happily acknowledge your improvement.

October 25, 2009 @ 1:56 pm | Comment

Merp, please be careful or I will ban you (again). You crossed the line up above. And yes, you should go to Yunnan.

October 25, 2009 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

RIchard, we need to go back to Dali. Damn that is a beautiful place…

October 25, 2009 @ 2:30 pm | Comment

In a heartbeat. But you know if we go to Yunnan I’ll have to spend a day or two in Kunming.

October 25, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | Comment

Yeah, Dali – and Yunnan generally – is well worth another trip. Next time I might even treat myself to a spliff.

October 25, 2009 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

You specifically said that the CCP was plotting an “ethnic cleansing” of foreigners in China, and that China needed hate crime laws to protect white males and white privilege in China.

October 26, 2009 @ 2:01 am | Comment

Yunnan is gorgeous, and the diversity of people, landscapes and climates to be found there is amazing. Nothing quite like relaxing in Xishuangbanna after escaping the dark of an industrial inland Shandong winter.

Merp,

“Both are breaking laws; however I question why the logging is “illegal” in specific areas and not others. In my opinion America should turn New York into a forest again.”

Ok, no offense, but that is a ridiculous comment. So, illegal logging in Africa by Chinese business is ethically permissible because you think New York should be a forest? Sorry, I thought we were having an interesting exchange up to this point, but your resort to kneejerk anti-Americanism as a pre-fabricated answer to everything has killed it for me.

October 26, 2009 @ 3:55 am | Comment

Yunnan is God’s country.

That “logic” Merp uses to justify illegal Chinese logging is vintage. It is the default argument they throw up when they know something inexcusable is going on. America, at some point in its history, did a similar thing, too. It gets China off the hook every time. Which isn’t to say America hasn’t done some atrocious things. But two wrongs and all that…

October 26, 2009 @ 4:14 am | Comment

Ok, no offense, but that is a ridiculous comment. So, illegal logging in Africa by Chinese business is ethically permissible because you think New York should be a forest? Sorry, I thought we were having an interesting exchange up to this point, but your resort to kneejerk anti-Americanism as a pre-fabricated answer to everything has killed it for me.

I don’t know where exactly the trees are coming from. Are the laws pushed by Africans or was it “guided” by American activists as a nature preserve? I have an issue with people trying to dictate to Latin Americans and Africans that they should have permanent nature reserves covering their entire land, but that’s all.

You could replace “New York” with “London” or “Paris”. It’s just that saying New York has the most shock value.

I mean why not turn all developed urban areas back into pristine, unmolested ecosystems like the Amazon?

October 26, 2009 @ 10:02 am | Comment

@PB: Merp ‘knows’ he’s right, you can’t win a debate with him. You can, however, have fun stirring him up.

For example: Hey, Merp! Is the white man still getting you down?

October 26, 2009 @ 10:21 am | Comment

That sounds like the opening of a Billy Mays commercial.

RIP

October 26, 2009 @ 10:50 am | Comment

Kudos, Merp. That was funny (I’m an Aussie so I had to google and youtube ‘Billy Mays’).

October 26, 2009 @ 11:11 am | Comment

Sure has these folks down though…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyistav_cjY

Outside experts who reviewed the videotape at the request of the newspaper said they were concerned that Ho can be heard moaning and crying as he was on the ground, rather than offering substantial resistance. And experts expressed alarm that Ho appears to have been handcuffed before the final baton strike occurs.

source: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_13639917?source=most_emailed

Seems like “the white man” has it in for the Vietnamese:

Cau Bich Tran, 25-years-old, was also shot and killed in her home when officers arrived at her house responding to a domestic disturbance call and shot her after police mistakenly took her vegetable peeler for a cleaver.

October 26, 2009 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

You know, I’m pretty tolerant with threads going off-topic, but this is really getting ridiculous. Can we at least keep this vaguely focused on, you know, the environment and stuff like that?

October 26, 2009 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

Merp is a broken record. No matter what the topic of the post, he always says the same thing: America bad, therefore China not bad. He is going to be banned very soon for trolling (when you keep derailing threads, that’s trolling, Merp).

October 26, 2009 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

@PB: I gave him credit for a funny comment… so he fucked it up by being himself, meh. I suppose whitey did get him down.

Horses for courses.

October 26, 2009 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

Other Lisa/Lisa, I’ll try to get the thread back on track a bit by talking about something you mentioned. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned smaller, more localized manufacturing- most people would honestly be shocked if they knew how many times all the components of some end-use consumer products have crossed the ocean. I mean some of it is truly insane- like fish getting caught in Canada/Norway, shipped to China to be processed, and then shipped back again for consumption.

The cheap energy that has enabled all this (and created a world where labour is the primary cost consideration, not resources) looks to be on its way out. Of course, there is going to be a period of backlash and economic turmoil as always accompanies these sort of shifts- think about all the vested interests with their business survival pegged to growth in global trade (logistics companies, ports, shipping, you name it). On the ideological front, there will also be a fierce battle over the idea of trade as a desirable end onto itself, an idea which has been ingrained in the global elite for decades now.

On the power generation side of things, I believe we will also see a shift towards more decentralized and distributed generation. People who say that renewables will “never” replace the generation capabilities of fossil fuels are missing half the picture. Renewables might indeed never be able to match the massive, centralized power plant model, but will this model even be needed once buildings become much more efficienct and self-sustainable? I think in the next few decades, people will be surprised by the level to which power generation becomes more of a local level responsibility.

Alas, a drastic shift like this will also have backlash from vested interests and important social consequences. Think of how much the modern nation-state is dependent on centralized infrastructure for its cohesiveness- everyone is hooked into massive power and commercial “grids”, economically dependent on major infrastructure networks and so on. Centralized economies (in which I would include Western countries- who are we kidding, we are oligarchies) are dependent on these massive and environmentally destructive infrastructure webs, and so are the large corporate entities that profit from this scale. But decentralizing power generation is in a sense the re-democratization of infrastructure and a pushback against the powers of an overarching, centralized state and its associated profiteers. Think about it- your heating, cooling and electricity is all generated on-site as opposed to in some massive power plant 400 miles away by a utility who has complete control over you through billing. This is why I am frankly amazed that more genuine Republicans in the US aren’t hardcore green- the whole idea of renewable, decentralized energy fits right into the smaller gov’t paradigm.

So I think many people are looking at renewables all wrong- they are trying to see how they will run the existing grid and global industrial structure (which at this stage, is what is happening). But they miss the potential for renewables down the line to REALLY shake things up by making the very idea of a huge, expansive power grid increasingly obsolete and reducing economic dependence on large, remote actors. And the political implications of changes like these could be enormous.

October 26, 2009 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

The technology to power an entire house and provide/stock the equivalent of 20-kW-hrs already exists.

New battery could change world, one house at a time

http://www.heraldextra.com/news/article_b0372fd8-3f3c-11de-ac77-001cc4c002e0.html

That is clearly the way to go. Not sure if the oil and energy companies will appreciate it as much as we do.

The solutions are out there, and they’ve been there for a very long time. Suppressed green technologies that you haven’t even heard of (but might soon in the near future).

It’s always about political bullshit, vested interest and money. We have the resources to create a better world for all of us, but we don’t have enough money to do so… Do you see the absurdity in this sentence?

October 26, 2009 @ 10:15 pm | Comment

“Come to Los Angeles and make that “blob” comment. I dare ya! :) We are the capital of Size 0, don’t you know…”

Actually, I did, well not really. I went to L.A a couple of years ago, to attend a convention, and snapped a picture of a woman (I won’t describe her out of respect), eating an ice cream. My comment was in fact partially inspired by this memory.

My blob comment was meant to underscore something that is very obvious to most non-American people witnessing it: A culture of extreme excess.

Fortunately for you Lisa, it seems that the West coast is somehow more aware of this, and measures are being put into place right now to address these issues.

October 26, 2009 @ 10:35 pm | Comment

Bao,

Your point about resources and money is an interesting one. That is the joy of a fiat money system- the amount of currency can be infinite as it is really just numbers on a screen, but people forget at the end of the day these numbers lay claim to very real and finite physical resources. Over the past few decades we have all paid way too much attention to the production of money as opposed to the resources actually underlying our civilization. Money itself is not wealth- it is a representation of wealth that we have invented. I think it is imperative to look at this crossover between environmental problems and the financial system.

October 26, 2009 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

Great comment, PB.

And yeah, Bao, there are plenty of obese people in CA, unfortunately. I honestly think it points to a problem with our whole economic/industrial infrastructure. People work very long hours, often at far distances from their homes, and they live in suburbs that are not designed for walking. The whole system is unhealthy.

My perspective is skewed by living on the West Side in the capital of the entertainment industry, so you just kinda take “beautiful people” for granted. Thankfully, I also live in a place that is set up well for walking and biking, and that has an impact as well. It’s much easier to lead a healthier lifestyle when the surrounding community promotes it.

October 27, 2009 @ 3:54 am | Comment

Merp is a broken record.

Stuart is, but you don’t seem to mind his rampant anti-Chinese trolling.

Think about it- your heating, cooling and electricity is all generated on-site as opposed to in some massive power plant 400 miles away by a utility who has complete control over you through billing.

You can have aeroponic farms taking up a relatively small portion of your home creating a significant share of your calories too, but you- [gets kidnapped by FBI]

This is why I am frankly amazed that more genuine Republicans in the US aren’t hardcore green- the whole idea of renewable, decentralized energy fits right into the smaller gov’t paradigm.

Easy, because they abandoned their “core values” a long time ago.

line to REALLY shake things up by making the very idea of a huge, expansive power grid increasingly obsolete and reducing economic dependence on large, remote actors.

This is why rural solar is a big thing for China, it’s a cheap and quick way to get people hot water and sanitation right off the bat without having to build much infrastructure.

@Lisa
And yeah, Bao, there are plenty of obese people in CA, unfortunately.

Even more in most other states

October 27, 2009 @ 6:17 am | Comment

We are all about the solar here in CA. It’s a great thing.

Another amazing sight — going to Xinjiang, to Urumqi, and passing the windfarm there. It’s really something…

October 27, 2009 @ 6:40 am | Comment

Those aren’t really wind farms. Those are Han death camps powered by the blood of Uiguarodon babies.

October 27, 2009 @ 7:16 am | Comment

I just arrived in LA, and can’t believe the gas prices and the cost of my taxi ride to the hotel. In some ways Phoenix does have some advantages. Then again, you get what you pay for.

Merp, Stuart didn’t use any obscenity, and whether I agree with him or not, his comments at least make sense and are rational. You are like a machine, with all due respect, that pops out fenqing talking points on cue.

This thread is now pretty bloated. Please use the new open thread if you want to continue the discussion, thanks.

October 27, 2009 @ 7:17 am | Comment

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