This story that’s running in the Guardian newspaper today, isn’t particularly surprising. The Chinese government is having a major rant about the US Embassy publishing Chinese pollution data. Why? Because the Beijing government’s own figures are pure fantasy, so when the Americans allow the truth to come to light – the officials of BJ, lose face.
Thus it comes down to those same officials bleating about how it’s nobody else’s business that walking through Beijing for a few hours is equivalent to taking up smoking 24/7 for the rest of your life. Once they realise this is a pretty stupid point – and they always do, the officials then flounder around looking for another, better excuse.
So here it is at the bottom of the article; “It’s not fair to judge us by developed nation standards.” (That’s my paraphrase so the Guardian don’t come asking for royalties).
This is indeed a much better excuse. They’re right. It isn’t fair or reasonable to expect developing nations to conform to standards set in other nations. It gets boring when outside observers demand that nations, which have been operating for 30-40 years in an industrial age, should immediately conform to standards we ourselves don’t meet.
Having said that, it’s not unreasonable to expect those nations to share accurate data. That’s where the Chinese government keeps getting it wrong. It should robustly defend the nation’s right to develop. It should also be happy with sharing the smog figures from Beijing. It can then point to the real steps it’s been taking to make them better.
Traffic calming? You betcha. There’s a limit on the number of registrations of new vehicles on Beijing’s roads each year. In the long run (it’s not a policy that will have immediate impact) that will get vehicles off the roads, and ensure that new vehicles are all of the highest environmental standards.
Going green? Absolutely, you’ve got a target of 100,000 electric cars on the streets in the next 3 years. There’s a pretty reasonable subsidy for buying one and the government will throw in a registration that you might not get for a fossil fuel vehicle.
Don’t forget the investments in solar, wind, nuclear, geo-thermal and hydro-power. Or the ambitious push to implement LED (partly driven by a need to subsidise a ridiculously over developed sector in China) in all public buildings, etc.
That’s what Beijing needs to do to silence its critics. It needs to publish the data – after all un-polluting the country will take time, and it needs to talk about what it’s doing to fix it. Every official in China recognizes the impending environmental disaster facing the nation, it’s a matter of national policy. So why the embarrassment and tub thumping? Possibly because self-deception is a matter of habit that becomes more and more difficult not to drag out on every occasion.
By the way, I’m taking a small drift away from Gender for a couple of days. This is mainly because the next part of the series is a tad irreverent and it doesn’t seem appropriate to follow a piece on suicide with a bag of wisecracks on a similar subject.