Perhaps it is because I just got back from a quick trip to Beijing, but China has been on my mind of late; this and Wall Street Journal article that a second planned construction project in China has been canceled because of local citizen demonstrations against the pollution the projects would cause.
The last report is that “officials in the coastal community of Qidong in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu said Saturday that they would stop construction of a pipeline intended to dump wastewater from a Japanese-owned paper mill into the sea. Worries about pollution sparked protests early Saturday that the state-run Xinhua news agency said drew thousands.”
As many analysts have been predicting for a while, pollution is becoming a major political issue in the communist country. There are even wealthy people living in other countries because of the awful pollution, like the smog that often enshrouds Beijing at “Beyond Index” levels. Pollution is now rampant across the country after 3 decades of growing itself into the world’s factory.
The test for the government is to figure out how to keep growing the economy briskly to create employment for the millions of people moving into the cities while keeping pollution low enough so that large protests and demonstrations don’t form like the one over the pipeline. Should these expressions of citizen involvement, voice, and protest continue to be successful in getting the government to change its plans, could the populace become emboldened to strive for other reforms and freedoms? Can pollution be the powder that ignites a countrywide revolution? Will the government strengthen its grip or deftly maneuver an ever so slightly set of widening political freedoms that keeps citizens happy? It is too early to tell; like trying to discern the Forbidden City through a haze of car exhaust the outlook isn’t clear. What is certain, however, is that the environmental issues matter and are here to stay.