China will choke itself to death

I think it’s about time that the developing world stopped saying “you did it, so why can’t we?” when the West raises concerns over rising pollution levels in China, India etc.
In the “good” old days my home country, the UK, had lots of dark, gritty and satanic mills, which were almost as ugly as our corporate headquarters. We used to make children work as chimney cleaners and down coal mines and generally life was pretty miserable.
But the point is that we, fortunately, didn’t have the technologies to kill people in as greater a number as the Chinese have, and also we didn’t have anywhere near as many people. Chemical and other plants are playing a large part in China’s environmental tragedy – and it is no exaggeration to call this a a tragedy.
Expect more legislation from China’s government, as a result of disturbing reports on China’s environment such as this one by the OECD.
The legislation will make it harder and more expensive to build chemical and other plants. At the same time there are huge opportunities for those selling safer processes and for the water-treatment industry.
But will the legislation work? Probably not because it cannot be allowed to work as so much of China’s growth is tied up in low quality, very cheap industrial capacity.
The end result is that China will choke a large number of its people, and its economy, to death.

5 Responses to China will choke itself to death

  1. olefinssteve 20 July, 2007 at 3:59 am #

    Maybe choke on a piece of char siew pau? (pork dumpling) Recent food scares (like the story of cardboard inserted into pork dumplings) have made the news and food/health safety awareness has gone up. Public pressure could also compel companies to shape up.

  2. Christopher Flook 20 July, 2007 at 1:44 pm #

    Trust the reference to our ugly corporate headquarters refers to the building rather than the staff?

  3. John richardson 24 July, 2007 at 4:01 am #


    Of course not – my colleagues are the beautiful people. I feel overawed when I visit head office – a bit like strolling down Sunset Boulvard

  4. Biofuelsimon 25 July, 2007 at 11:00 am #

    Ah, the taste of coal smoke in the back of your throat. Rickets for tea, those were the days. You paint an evocative picture of a time that is thankfully over for most of the developed world. Industiralisation followed by legislation probably has to happen though.

  5. Clay 31 July, 2007 at 3:43 pm #

    China’s population is much larger than the US, but is its land area? In fact they are almost equal, so I can’t allow China the excuse of size when it comes to enforcing national mandates at the local level. China’s major disadvantages here are not size but corruption and opacity/intransparency (whatever the word should be): it’s common practice to hide the truth. There’s also national pride and lack of will at the top level: look at the decision not to release the detailed costs of pollution for 2005.

    And there’s the media, which is given mixed signals–how far should they go in exposing China’s problems? Right now, the government’s very sensitive about the quality issue, so that recent report about dumplings filled with cardboard was squashed. Does anyone really believe that the journalist involved really faked it? By going after him, the government has said, no more stories about quality or we’ll go after you, too. So there it is: corruption and no free press.

    How can the national government do the job all by itself? That’s not how it works in the US–or any other developed country. China has to let the people police themselves, but getting from here to there is going to take time.

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