Is China getting serious about going green?
Bolder-than-usual statements out of some of China’s top officials suggests that the brakes may be tapped on the country’s red-hot economic growth in order to address mounting environmental issues.
It started a few days back with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao telling state media that the days of environmentally-blind development were over
“No longer can we sacrifice the environment in the name of rapid growth and blindly setting up new enterprises,” Wen warned, “as that would create unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption.”
Wen also said that China’s target for GDP growth this year will be revised down to 7 percent, significantly lower than the 9.5 percent growth the country has averaged over the last couple of decades and much lower than last year’s 10.3 percent.
On Monday, China’s top environment official, Zhou Shengxian, issued a strong warning to the country via a government website.
“In China’s thousands of years of civilization, the conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today,” The New York Times quoted Zhou as writing.
“The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the worsening ecological environment have become bottlenecks and grave impediments to the nation’s economic and social development.”
It is no secret that despite having some of the most incredible untouched scenery in the world, China, like all developed or developing countries, also has serious environmental issues. The majority of these problems stem from the country’s rapid industrialization – keep in mind that it took Western countries more than 80 years to industrialize, compared to only 30 for China.
Compared with developed nations, China’s environmental movement is still embryonic. But it already has its share of selfless heroes who have risked their careers and more in order to raise environmental awareness among Chinese.
One of those heroes, Liang Congjie, passed away recently. His passing was a major blow to environmentalism in China, but there is little doubt that our friend Liang would be pleased to see his void filled by the country’s real decision-makers.