Development ultimate solution to cure smog

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/9 22:53:39

China's National Bureau of Statistics recently verified the country's GDP statistics for 2015 and confirmed its economy grew 6.9 percent in 2015. Also over the weekend, China's Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said he was confident GDP growth could reach 6.7 percent in 2016, a fascinating speed against the backdrop of a lackluster global economy.  

At the same time, strong cold wind finally dispelled the distressing smog that blanketed Beijing and dozens of other cities in China for over a week. The "airpocalypse" triggered waves of outcry and uproar, and a large number of people attributed the smog to China's pursuit of rapid economic growth. Many even questioned strongly whether China should simply promote the economy at the cost of people's health and well-being.

China must try every effort to clean up the air and simultaneously maintain GDP growth. Historically, environmental problems like smog often take place when a country comes to a certain development phase with industrial structure to be upgraded, as seen in the UK, the US and Japan. There is no denying that the smog must be dealt with in an immediate and resolute manner. But it doesn't necessarily mean that by slowing down economic growth China would see less smog.

According to the World Bank, China has already overtaken the US to become the largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. But China remains a developing country that has a gigantic population, unbalanced development and a variety of resulting problems. All these won't be addressed if we stop or even walk development back - we must continue the rapid pace of development.

After all, most people don't want to sacrifice their modern lifestyle for clean air. And as former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin said, if we slow down economic growth, China will need a longer period to enter the high-income phase, and will therefore find it harder to upgrade industrial structure and become service-oriented.

Coping with air pollution and maintaining rapid economic growth can be promoted simultaneously. China's increasing spending on environment pollution has already made notable effects in cleaning up the air, according to data from the US Embassy in Beijing. Besides, China plans to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($360.5 billion) from 2016 to 2020 in renewable energy, mainly in hydropower, wind, solar power, biomass energy and geothermal energy. This is expected to significantly reduce the emission of pollutants and improve the air quality.

In this process, it also requires the government to rethink about and transform its functions, and improve its governance so as to enable the economy to develop fast and its people to breathe clean air. This will take time, but it is definitely achievable.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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