CNN fails to understand how China reduces pollution

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/20 22:33:41

Qixing Lake Scenic Area of Saihanba National Forest Park in North China's Hebei Province  Photo: Xinhua

A CNN's article entitled "China has saved hundreds of thousands of lives by reducing air pollution, study says," published on Tuesday, discusses achievements China has made in its fight against environmental problems. CNN also offered an explanation - "Public pressure has been the driving force of pollution policy in China." Yet CNN overlooked the most crucial factor, which is, how did China make enormous strides in tackling pollution?

CNN quoted a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Monday as saying "significant declines" in PM2.5 levels across China have been realized from 2013 to 2017. But not surprisingly, it would not let go of any opportunity to play up China's challenge. This time, it noted, "The government is facing an uneasy balancing act: it must handle the public's environmental concerns but avoid taking action that would slow growth."

CNN said so as if only the Chinese government is facing the test. The truth is, which government is not? The most crucial part in China's progress in cutting pollution, which CNN will not recognize, is the power of Chinese system. 

President Xi Jinping warned in 2013 that officials will be held responsible for life if projects they approved are found to harm the environment. In 2015, China established the mechanism of environmental inspection. As of December 2017, over 18,000 government officials were penalized for their failure to control pollution after inspection, and 234 Party and government leaders have been punished in 2019's environmental inspection. 

Chinese officials are put on guard to take environmental protection seriously, and some are even fired for failing to fix pollution. 

This is only a part of a string of China's environmental policies. But because these policies can be well implemented, even some Western media admit that China is winning in the war against pollution. 

In recent years, China has seen swift PM2.5 reduction. A growing scale of deserted lands has become natural oxygen bars. Wetlands have been significantly increased. 

Which other country has the capability to improve its environment at this spectacular speed? 

As India is suffering from "unbearable levels" of air pollution, an increasing number of Indian netizens and media have been asking why India can't learn from China and reach the same achievements as China. 

India has been plagued by air pollution for a long time. Agricultural burn-off and vehicle exhaust are the major reasons. But given different constituencies in rural and urban areas in the country, urban politicians find it difficult to convince farmers not to burn straw that much, while rural politicians can barely persuade residents in the city not to drive their cars that often. Policymakers are pretty constrained in what they can do.

But in China, as Aseem Prakash, founding director of the Center for Environmental Politics at the University of Washington, once said, "If they want something to be done, they can do it. Nothing stands between the decision and the implementation."

Consciously or unconsciously, CNN ignored that the Chinese government has long before noticed the concerns of its people. The key is not about public pressure, but about how exactly to respond to it. This is the biggest stumbling block for the West to understand China - while it focuses on the Chinese government's challenges, it turns a blind eye to how China resolves the task, which happens to be one of the most crucial issues in a country's governance.  

Posted in: OBSERVER

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