China’s “Environmental Suicide”

This is one of those stories where all you can say is Yikes and then hope you never have to hear about it again because iIt’s simply too depressing.

Just as the Chinese people are among the main victims of global warming, mainly caused by the older industrialised ‘West’, China’s latest export wave – acid rain, air pollution and even more greenhouse gases – is a major threat to the global environment. Coal dust and acid rain caused by China’s power industry have fallen as far away as California, and belated moves to protect China’s forests have driven armies of Chinese loggers to Burma and Brazil….

Extreme weather conditions, environmental shocks and pollution scandals are grabbing the headlines in China, despite the ‘communist’ regime’s continuing tight grip on the media. There is a growing popular questioning of the regime’s pursuit of rapid but uncontrolled industrialisation, and the antics of corrupt officials who in cahoots with local and foreign capitalists are fast obliterating the country’s land, forests, rivers and other natural resources.

According to US environmentalist Elizabeth Economy, hundreds of millions of Chinese face “a life-threatening environmental crisis�. The poisoning of its rivers, into which largely untreated industrial waste and sewage is routinely pumped, means that 700 million Chinese drink contaminated water. China now produces as much organic water pollution as the US, Japan and India combined, which explains its high rates of hepatitis A, diarrhoea, and liver and stomach cancers. Of the 500 largest Chinese cities, 193 undertake no sewage treatment whatsoever, according to a report from the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). 30,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by drinking unclean water. The Ministry of Health openly acknowledges that environmental pollution is behind a 25 percent increase in birth defects nationwide since 2001.

That’s just for starters. Lots more, none of it very uplifting. There’s also air pollution and water pollution and….well, you name it, and China’s got it in spades. We’ve heard the horror stories before, but the twist in this one is that China’s pollution is not an internal problem: it threatens the health and safety of the entire planet. And that’s something for all of us to worry about.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

And the environmental will become geopolitical, too. With all that Siberian open space north of China, all that water flowing toward the Arctic, all those forests, getting warmer and more habitable as the planet’s temperature increases… And they’re not yet polluted! What do you think of the chances of every Russian’s Mongol nightmare coming true? Was there any environmental component to the outpouring of the Khanate after the turn of the prior millenium?

July 2, 2006 @ 11:39 pm | Comment

I’m almost biting my tongue off, because if I restart this argument then it will just be a cue for the Communist Propaganda Whores to dig out the Big Lie about how Russia has “declined” since it ditched the Communist dictatorship. And since I’m one of the very few people on this forum who actually know Russia from firsthand experience – rather than from memes and hearsay and anedotes like “I met a Russian who told me xxx” – I’m vastly outnumbered on this forum whenever it comes up.

That said: I assure you, Russia will turn Shanghai into an ashtray before it gives up one acre of land to China.

July 3, 2006 @ 1:33 am | Comment

And as occasionally happens I find myself in agreement with Ivan.

Now more than ever with Russia’s benefitting immensely (economically and ego-wise) from the high global energy prices.

July 3, 2006 @ 1:56 am | Comment

Oh, I’m not suggesting China would ever make a full-on military invasion for Lebensraum. That’s so Last Millenium! Tends to provoke too much resentment amongst the locals, as the U.S. has found out in Iraq. Then you have to kill them all, and that eliminates potential profitable customers. The Chinese are smarter. They learned from Tibet. I didn’t say nicer, just smarter…

But there are other ways of extending a country’s reach. It strikes me that China’s mercantiist policy is gaining it influence over U.S. political decisions based on how it finances the federal budget deficit and the buying habits of Mall-Wart shoppers. When Beijing does decide it’s time to re-absorb Taiwan, it will be easy to do it peacefully a la Hong Kong and Macau because of the overwhelming financial force that can be brought to bear. “Oppose the reunification of our people? Care to see us dump your debt and collapse your currency? We’ll deal with the economic disruption at home in pursuit of the greater long-term national goal.”

Mexicans are culturally colonising the U.S. because of the population pressure of so many people willing to “vote with their feet” (I feel dirty using a Reagan phrase) and work for feudal wages. (Not making a racist value judgment here, just noting how much greater the Hispanic presence in the U.S. is now compared to when I was a kid in the 1960s.) Russia’s oil boom won’t last forever, and as its population dwindles, it will need new sources of income and workers. Like water pipelines, pulp factories with Russian overseers and a Chinese “migrant” labour force that never really goes away, similar things played out over several decades (if current civilisation has that long)…

What interests me about this blog, aside from the reprints of the NYT Select columns that I no longer have legal access to, is its Asian focus. I’ve long had an international outlook, but my gaze had been more focused on Europe and South America. Down here, geography shifts one’s viewpoint. Nice to get a PekingDuck perspective on the planet.

July 3, 2006 @ 8:49 pm | Comment

I don’t understand this part: “the Chinese people are among the main victims of global warming”

Was this meant to be serious? What’s the basis? Even the most-southern parts of China are only sub-tropical, aren’t they? I would think that the net effects of global warming for China might well be positive, and they should certainly be less negative than for, say, Indonesia or the Philippines.

July 5, 2006 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

What I’ve read is that global warming is increasing the desertification in China. The northern and western areas such as the Gobi are drying out, meaning less vegetation, worse dust storms, increased lung disease…

July 6, 2006 @ 1:05 am | Comment

Correct. The effects of global warming involve mutual causation and complex effects all over the world, far beyond any relatively minor discomforts of feeling “too hot.” Britain is in especial danger, because global warming threatens to disrupt the Gulf Stream which keeps Britain relatively warm.
ie, global warming actually threatens to make Britain a lot colder.

July 6, 2006 @ 1:41 am | Comment

I knew that Britain might be at risk because of the Gulf Stream, and that the overall effects could be complicated and hard to predict (to put it mildly). But I didn’t know about the concerns regarding desertification of China. Thanks for explaining it.

July 6, 2006 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

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