Got Masks?

Think back to our meeting with Dr. Hodge last week, where we both signaled one thing you need to get ready for in China will be the level of pollution.

As part of being a member of the “I am a world power and player” club, China will have to get used to taking some shots from critics like the rest of us. For those that follow China, we know that China can handle domestic issues and controversies pretty well, but she can stumble badly when she has to play the modern, move quickly PR game in the international and global arena.

On that note, a good friend of mine, who is Chinese and loves China as much as anyone by the way, sent me this pretty darn funny video clip: The Onion: China Celebrates Status As Number One Polluter.

So yes, China will have to learn to withstand both fair and unfair attacks from others across the globe that use cut-to-the-bone humor and sarcasm, and in time the excuse of “they are out to get us and/or hold us down” won’t fly anymore.

But let’s also dig deeper and be fair to China and its populace. Ask yourself, what is it about China, where it came from, where it is going, etc., that makes it so very difficult to address and get its hands around its environmental problems? Where was the US at this same stage when it industrialized? How does the US and each and every one of us contribute to this problem via our consumption patterns? How long will it take for China fix this? What can we do to assist? What business opportunities does/will cleaning up the mess present, both in China and here in the US? And perhaps most importantly, what would your solution be to this problem and if it were that easy to fix, why has it not yet been done?

Think about this. Do some digging. See what you can find on this topic that you did not know before. I welcome your thoughts.

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12 Responses to Got Masks?

  1. Oscar Merlin says:

    I do not have a solution to the pollution problem in China. But I think that I have a clear idea of what is going to happen. China, will displace more and more of the pollution it usually creates to more and more countries. While researching on pollution in China, I came across an article titled, “5 Chinese oil workers kidnapped, killed in Sudan” (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-10/28/content_7146896.htm). And I said to myself, what are Chinese workers doing in Sudan? Then a split second later I remembered all of the NPR talks during the Summer that talked about Chinese influence in Africa. It turns out that the Chinese have had a presence in Africa for many years, and are continuing to form strong alliances there with governments that can supply them the natural resources they need. By doing that China can obtain the goodies it wants while keeping away the pollution created by the process of extracting them.

    Interesting to note that China is now carving its piece out of the African continent after most of the influence of the European powers has been displaced. I guess that the saying “who ever laughs last, laughs better” is applicable to this case since it is now China’s turn to smile.

  2. Chris Carr says:

    You are right. One reason China is in places like Africa is it helps keep said environmental messes out of it’s own back yard (same for us re: Saudi Arabian oil production).

    But the bigger reason is geopolitical and strategic. To wit, the West has already captured most decent size oil and energy markets for itself. China, to ensure its oil needs and supply lines can’t be cut off by the whims of the West and their politicians and press and elections, have made the survival decision to develop energy markets in places the West has not gone or cannot go because there would be a PR and media and/or human rights uproar if the West did so.

    And that is the main reason why we see China in places like the Sudan, the Congo, etc.

    Time will tell if China screws up Africa as much as the Colonial powers did during the two plus centuries they had their shot. So far China’s success in Africa has been mostly (not all) positive, but their bad days could be a comin’ and the tide could easily and quickly shift against them. One example is the very Chinese oil workers you mention that were recently executed by one of the local Sudanese extremist groups.

  3. David McKinnon says:

    I found an interesting article on the NY Times website that speaks to this issue. Chinese officials realized the impact that the destruction of resources can have on an economy, so they implemented a measurement of GDP that took into account the implicit costs of pollution. They called it “Green GDP.” It was a study that subtracted the cost of pollution from growth rates, providing a more transparent GDP. Officials from the more industrialized parts of China pressured the government to change the measurement. They now have aggressive (maybe too aggressive) environmental goals. Because promotions and incentives are based on economic growth, the environment continues to enjoy a back-seat view. Here’s the link to the video:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/08/26/world/asia/choking_on_growth.html#story3

  4. Jamie Hastings says:

    Not to sidetrack, but I found this article from the Economists that briefly mentions some of the positives to China’s quest for raw materials in other countries. http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12601916
    While European colonialism did have many adverse effects on some native cultures and economies, perhaps China’s dependency on foreign materials will actually be beneficial to some.

    As for an answer to the pollution not only in China, but also in our own backyard, I couldn’t help but thinking about this article that was assigned to our economics class by Dr. Zambrano. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/business/16view.html?_r=1&ex=1347595200&en=c01f6ef9..&oref=slogin
    It does raise a good point in that if a government wants people to do less of something, simply tax them. This may be a great answer especially if the tax revenue is used to offset other taxes so that it is not actually an “added” tax, but rather redirecting taxes towards something adverse.

    While this does seem like a great idea and the article mentions that China might buy into to a scheme such as this, I have a hard time believing it. This especially holds true if it would inhibit China’s first priority, a growing GDP. In addition, from Dr. Hodges speech last week, it is evident that the Chinese Government and many industry owners have close ties and mutual obligations. As a result, a tax on emissions might not be so widely supported by government officials.

  5. Chris Carr says:

    Nice. I like the tie in to your econ class.

  6. Scotty Hayes says:

    Pollution is the largest consequence of China’s rise as becoming a leader in the global economy. I chuckled at the onion clip, however the truth behind the clip is, to me anyways, very disturbing. The line I remember most was when the fake Chinese ambassador said the pollution was “smoke of progress”.

    This got me to thinking about the questions raised about the US and its history of industrialization and our current situation with China. It’s easy to forget, but I guarantee we had many of the same struggles with pollution in our rise as an industrial strength. The answer is not a simple one, especially when keeping in mind the enormous rise of China’s production capacities.

    Currently it is cheaper to pollute than to produce things more “green” in China. Costs are the most important part of the equation for any manufacturing monster. The Chinese government needs to do more than police all of the wrong doings. Incentives for business to be more “green” would be a great start. Although there is much room for advancement, our technology in this area could prove to have the most profound influence on China’s future, while providing great opportunities for American businesses.

    The role we play now and the demand we put on Chinese resources has a massive impact on Chinese pollution. We can not simply point the finger and tell the Chinese to clean up their mess. Pollution is the world’s problem and we need to do everything in our power to help combat this problem.

    A few ideas behind the cause of China’s pollution problem are attached within the link.
    http://www.whiskeyandgunpowder.com/ChinaPollution.html

  7. Chris Carr says:

    “I guarantee we had many of the same struggles with pollution in our rise as an industrial strength.”

    You are correct. Most of you are too young to remember this, but I can vividly remember turning on the TV news as a kid and seeing rivers that would burn in Ohio and Pennsylvania, because they were so polluted.

  8. Jessica Harris says:

    When doing a little research on the pollution problem in China I came across a quote that read, “ It is so polluted in China that I feel like I’m sucking on an exhaust pipe while in the middle of a sand storm.” Oh, how I am looking forward to that! J

    Then I got to thinking; of course China is the most polluted country in the world. Ever country that gained economic power in history also created a great deal of pollution in the process, but the economic growth that has been seen in China has never happened so quickly in the history of the world. With that said, it can also be known that there has never been this large of an increase in the pollution of a city so quickly.

    The main issue with this pollution is the heath of China’s 1,321,851,888 people. Not only is cancer now the leading cause of death, 500,000 million people in the country are not able to drink safe water. There was an estimation that China would overtake the US in the amount of pollution they created by the year 2010. They were able to accomplish that “goal” over two years earlier than expected.

    The question now is what does the world and China do about this? Should China consider slowly down their economic growth? No, that doesn’t make any sense. Should the US and other developed countries start financially supporting China to help them transfer to more environmentally friendly ways? No, that doesn’t make too much sense either. China is considered the US’s main competition in many global markets.

    I was surprised to find that China is taking the blame for this pollution problem and is taking action in order to improve the situation. They have created goals, with numerical values spelled out, on what they are working towards for lowing the amount of emissions they release and conserving energy. People are also starting to come together and protest illegal coalmines and factories that are highly polluting. Part of the reason that these protests were sparked was relates to the fact that China is a country that values being respected. As the Olympics came to Beijing, China truly wanted to clean up their act.

    Even though China is aware of the problems and really wants to take measures to correct it, many of the goals they have set have gone unmet and I was disappointed to read that some Chinese officials believe that the global warming problem should be corrected by the richer countries and that it should not infringe on the development of China.

    It’s well known that there is no fix all that is going to make all the pollution disappear, but I believe that as indicated by the number of people who’s health is being affected by it, it is an urgent problem for the country. By educated the people of China of how negative this pollution is for them, they can then see the importance of correcting it as well.

    In formation was found in the New York Times article As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/world/asia/26china.html

  9. Cece Reyes says:

    A recent headline regarding air pollution in China:
    China cuts key water, air pollutants in early 2008
    Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:32am EST from Reuters

    We all heard about China’s efforts to reduce pollution for the Olympics this summer, but it was not an isolated efort. Their long term goals include cutting “the two key pollution measures by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010. Last year marked the first swing downwards for both of them.”

    To their credit, they are living with a lot of pollution from industries that create products that are sent to the US, China needs to figure out how they can continue to move forward on implementing technologies that will curb air pollution. In the US we have many businesses in clean air and green industries that contribute to the economy. Maybe China can begin to create business that will help their pollution issues as well.

    I found this posting on econbrowser.com:
    Posted by: d_rumsfeld at February 14, 2008 10:32 AM
    “China today is about equivalent to Los Angeles in the early 1970′s in terms of air pollution. China doesn’t have the excuse of poor topography though. As China gets wealthier, I anticipate many business opportunities to help them clean up their air.”

  10. Andre Ourthiague says:

    Air pollution is the most visible offender when it comes to China and pollution, however, water pollution may have the most devastating effects. The World Bank warns that the irreversible amount of water pollution will have “catastrophic consequences for future generations.” National Geographic wrote an article titled “Bitter Waters” that describes the Chinese water situation.

    “The proliferation of factories and cities – all products of China’s spectacular economic boom – is sucking the Yellow River dry. What water remains is being poisoned. From the canal bank, Shen Xuexiang (the article’s “face”) points to another surreal flash of color: blood-red chemical waste gushing from a drainage pipe, turning the water a garish purple. This Canal once teemed with fish and turtles…now its water is too toxic to use even for irrigation.”

    In my opinion, the only solution to the pollution situation in China is strict government regulation. Everyone seems to have their eyes set on the next great invention that will come along and fix the problem. There is nothing wrong with this, however, good old wealth-destroying taxes and fines need to force the issue until then. China has blindly pursued industrial growth for three decades, now the government is faced with the environmental costs.

  11. Chris Carr says:

    Yes, as bad as the air pollution is, it’s the water quality and quantity problem that is the real time bomb in China, in my view.

    The CCP is finally starting to address pollution issues via taxes and fines. It will take them some time ….

  12. Xiaofei Song says:

    The air pollution in China is very obvious. I remembered the last time before 2006 to see the blue sky in Beijing maybe was in 1990, when I was in the elementary school. Now, I am in Beijing to visit my parents for the Xmas, for the whole week, I always has some kind of allergy.
    Most of the people in China do not realize how serious the problems are. Only recently, the government began to have to regulations about the environment pollution. One of my dad’s friends who graduated from Peking University 35 years ago with a degree in environmental science could not find a job in China.
    China has too many populations, although its GDP increases a lot in the past couple years, the GDP per capita is still very low comparing to the developed countries. It is very hard for China to spend a lot of money to improve the environment.
    The solution for China is to develop its economic, so that it can generate more money to change the situation. Also, since most developed countries, such as U.S., Britain, have already experienced the stage of industry revaluation. They might have some experience on how to improve the nature environment in this particular state. Those countries should help China with its development and work closely to improve our global village.

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