The (Bureaucratic) Enviro Wars in China intensify…

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You can get a sense of the bureaucratic infighting within the Chinese government over the need for stronger environmental protection versus the need for continued strong economic growth in the following dispatch, which notes that the government has postponed “indefinitely” the release of the latest “green” GDP figures (for the year 2005). The 2004 report estimated the “cost” of pollution at 3.1 per cent of China’s GDP.
A lot of bureaucrats and party leaders—particularly at the provincial level—wish the enviros would get out of their hair. They believe China’s priority still has to be economic growth first second and third. China cannot—no country really has—square this circle (that is, move to protect the environment more energetically without imposing serious costs on the economy.) Optimists note that in the post war period, the United States, Japan and South Korea among others all moved from being environmental basket cases to being relatively green (certainly compared to China) within a relatively short amount of time. The difference of course, is that China is still mainly a developing country—it’s still got massive numbers of people that it needs to move out of relative poverty to, at minimum, lower middle class status. That’s very different from where Japan and South Korea and the United States were when they started cleaning up on a significant scale; ergo, the serious political tension in China on the subject of the environment. My own sense is that the stresses, and arguments, are much more intense on this subject than many believe. It’s becoming a real fault line within the Chinese political system. Watch this space.
Herewith the link to the Worldwatch institute report on this subject: