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Chinese Environment

[ 158 ] February 21, 2013 |

We all know that the Chinese environment is just a bit degraded.

And then there’s this of course:

But luckily the Chinese government has a hot new plan to solve at least the air problem:

Ah, yes—the Chinese government will stop at nothing to reduce pollution that has enveloped parts of the country in a toxic soup. First, Chinese cities restricted the number of cars on the road and scrapped old vehicles. Then the government asked citizens to give up a time-honored tradition of setting off thousands of firecrackers before and on Chinese New Year. Beijing’s next ambitious measure? Banning barbecue.

At least that’s what China’s state media is reporting, though it scrimps on details. China’s environmental watchdog has now issued draft legislation calling on cities to ban “barbecue-related activities.” (Does that include just eating barbecue, looking at barbecue, or thinking about barbecue? We don’t know!) One blogger on Sina Weibo indelicately commented in response, “Soon they’ll ban farting in order to clean up the air.”

Serious efforts here my friends. Meanwhile, there is real grassroots resistance to the environmental degradation in China that has created real pressure on Chinese politicians, for whatever that’s worth in a totalitarian state.

And remember, a major part of why China developed this way was that American companies decided that labor and environmental regulations in the United States were cutting into profits too much and so decided to replicate the paradise of the U.S. Gilded Age somewhere else.

Comments (158)

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  1. KadeKo says:

    Banning ‘que? Isn’t that what the EPA threatened to do in the mid-90s? I remember black helicopters with water cannons somewhere.

  2. Data Tutashkhia says:

    Totalitarian, really?

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      Yeah, same here.

    • J. Otto Pohl says:

      He probably should have said authoritarian. It certainly is not a European style liberal democratic parliamentary system of governance. Rather it is still effectively a one party state even if the ideology of the party has changed radically in recent decades. Maybe China should be referred to as post-totalitarian, although that sounds like too much of an academic cliche.

      • justaguy says:

        The Chinese state is sequentially totalitarian, not simultaneously totalitarian. They might try and control all aspects of society at some point in time, but certainly not all at once.

        • LeeEsq says:

          I think that the Chinese government is probably best described as a bureaucratic state with rotating leadership from a select group. Basically, its a oligarchy.

          • justaguy says:

            Sure, but I’m talking about the extent to which they try to manage society. I take a totalitarian state to be one which tries to manage all of society. That was clearly the case during the socialist era, but that has diminished with the dissolution of the work unit system, and various other changes in social organization in the economic reform era.

            The Chinese state has the potential to manage lots of everyday life, should they so choose, and they move back and forth between managing certain things closely or loosely. But they’re not trying to manage everything all the time. So, even though they use violence to enforce their rule, are opaque and authoritarian, they’re not really totalitarian as I understand it.

            • Data Tutashkhia says:

              The Chinese state has the potential to manage lots of everyday life…

              Right, unlike other states. You can smoke in a pub there, you know…

              • justaguy says:

                Yes, other states manage their societies too, that’s pretty generic. And sure, in spite of anti-smoking laws you can smoke in bars in China. You can also be beaten and imprisoned for practicing your religious beliefs; extra-judiciously imprisoned, tortured or even killed for lodging complaints about official corruption through the official petitioner system; intimidated by the police for posting criticisms of the government online; etc.. There are, of course, other states where that happens too – and I would describe them as authoritarian or totalitarian based on how it works with them.

                • cpinva says:

                  is this even possible?

                  “extra-judiciously imprisoned”

                  is that anything like “extra-virgin” olive oil”

                • justaguy says:

                  “is this even possible? “extra-judiciously imprisoned””
                  Sure, there are private contractors (or hired thugs, depending on the description) who intercept petitioners as they get to Beijing and hold them at “black jails”. There is a formal legal system in China, and this is flatly illegal but is tolerated. Similarly Chen Guangcheng was under house arrest but wasn’t convicted by the formal justice system – local officials just had thugs surround his house and keep him from leaving.

                • Jameson Quinn says:

                  Guy, you mean “extra-judicially”. It was a joke.

          • Data Tutashkhia says:

            ‘Select group’? Is that a bad thing?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hu_Jintao#Early_life

          • wengler says:

            One party oligarchic dictatorship?

      • Data Tutashkhia says:

        It’s not a one party state; they have at least a half-dozen parties there, IIRC.

        • justaguy says:

          The minority parties are window dressing with no significant influence on the State.

          • Data Tutashkhia says:

            That is, perhaps, a fair critique of the Chinese multi-party political system.

            I’ll also note that there’s been, at least in the last 30 years, a chain of orderly and peaceful succession of the CPC chairmen, which is not typical for even an authoritarian regime.

            • Mechazaurus says:

              Perhaps? Also, I’m pretty sure North Korea and Saudi Arabia have had a chain of orderly and peaceful successions as well.

              • Jason says:

                Well, they’re keeping it in the family. That’s certainly not a new model of succession.

              • Data Tutashkhia says:

                No, it’s nothing like SA or NKorea, that is my point. In those places the current leader has to die for a new one to take his place. In China, the new leader rises thru the ranks and gets elected, while the old one leaves, peacefully. That is not what we understand, typically, as a ‘dictatorship’.

                • Karate Bearfighter says:

                  If this is your definition, you can’t go as far back as 30 years. Hua Guofeng was forced out in a bureaucratic coup, and Deng remained the “paramount leader” until his death, despite having retired from all formal positions of authority. It’s not until 2005, when Jiang hands the last of his posts over to Hu, that you really see a Chinese leader retire peacefully.

                • Karate Bearfighter says:

                  I would also note that the preamble to the Chinese constitution affirms the leadership of the Communist Party, and talks about a multi-party consultative system under the leadership of the Communist Party. In practical terms, the Communist Party has formal power over the continued legality of the alternative parties. They’re really less alternative parties than they are social organizations.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  In practical terms, the Communist Party has formal power over the continued legality of the alternative parties.

                  So, it has is an official ideology, so what. So do many other states: neoliberalism in the US, Zionism in Israel.

                  To find a pluralistic political system with real alternatives you probably have to go to a place like France.

                • Karate Bearfighter says:

                  I don’t know the constitutional system of Israel at all, but you’re really stretching to claim that “neoliberalism” is enshrined in the US constitution in the way the CPC is enshrined in the Chinese constitution. Many of the US’s constitutional arrangements may be very helpful to the ideology know identified as neoliberalism, but that is very different than being able to point out specific laws that allow one party to decide whether other parties can exist.

                  It’s also a mistake to say that China simply has an official ideology; they have an official ideology and an official ruling party. Over the years, the content of the official ideology has changed quite a bit, but the party apparatus never has.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  Well, in the US, when they felt threatened by a different ideology, they first instituted (quite officially) a political witch hunt, then later a minor white-terror campaign, with assassinations and so on.

                  Since you said “in practical terms”, we need to address it in practical terms, rather than legalisms: can you imagine a US politician declaring “I am running against the free market”?

                • Karate Bearfighter says:

                  can you imagine a US politician declaring “I am running against the free market”?

                  Ummmm …yes?

                • That is not what we understand, typically, as a ‘dictatorship’.

                  Having just used the word “elected” to describe the process by which someone comes to occupy high office in China, perhaps you shouldn’t be so persnickety about definitions.

                • Well, in the US, when they felt threatened by a different ideology, they first instituted (quite officially) a political witch hunt, then later a minor white-terror campaign, with assassinations and so on.

                  The worst days of the McCarthy Era in the United States demonstrated a vastly greater respect for civil liberties and political pluralism than China’s best day in the past sixty years.

                • In practical terms, the Communist Party has formal power over the continued legality of the alternative parties.

                  So, it has is an official ideology, so what. So do many other states: neoliberalism in the US, Zionism in Israel.

                  Troll jumped from “party” to “ideology” and hoped no one would notice.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  Karate, so, the US has a tiny socialist party that has zero effect on anything, and that proves that the system is pluralistic.

                  But the fact that China has 8 non-communist parities doesn’t count for anything.

                  Does this sum it up about right?

                • Karate Bearfighter says:

                  Does this sum it up about right?

                  No. Shift the goalposts again if you’d like.

                • can you imagine a US politician declaring “I am running against the free market”?

                  Karate, so, the US has a tiny socialist party that has zero effect on anything, and that proves that the system is pluralistic.

                  You made that your standard. Karate didn’t.

                  Although most people, looking to determine if a country has a pluralistic political system, wouldn’t use the standard you brought up (the ability of a party that is of no consequences to legally operate), but rather, would look at whether there is more than one political party that effectively competes in and wins elections.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  What goalposts did I shift?

                  I said: China has several parties, so it’s not a single-party system.

                  You (plural you) replied: that doesn’t count because only the communists control the state.

                  I then said: but in the US only the neoliberals control the state.

                  And you replied: but the US has a socialist party, so it doesn’t matter.

                  This is the conversation we are having…

                • Karate Bearfighter says:

                  most people … would look at whether there is more than one political party that effectively competes in and wins elections.

                  Agreed. The fact that you can form a minor party and espouse whatever views you like without the prior approval of the major parties is really just the cherry on top of the sundae.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  The fact that you can form a minor party and espouse whatever views you like without the prior approval of the major parties is really just the cherry on top of the sundae.

                  I don’t think so. As a practical matter it’s completely meaningless. As long as your party doesn’t threaten anyone it’s tolerated, but as soon as it does, there will be, in all likelihood, another witch hunt, it’ll be declared unAmerican, and purged from the face of the earth.

                • What goalposts did I shift?

                  Among others, your shift from talking about parties to talking about “neoliberalism.” Could you please link to the web site for the American Neoliberal Party?

                  And then there’s your declaration that your own evidence that China is not a one-party state, the existence of irrelevant minor parties, is completely meaningless:

                  The fact that you can form a minor party and espouse whatever views you like without the prior approval of the major parties is really just the cherry on top of the sundae.

                  I don’t think so. As a practical matter it’s completely meaningless.

                  Although I’ll grant you this: your steadfast refusal to acknowledge the existence of actually-competitive parties that gain and lose power to the opposition in the United States, and their absence in China, has not budged even a millimeter.

                • Hogan says:

                  As long as your party doesn’t threaten anyone it’s tolerated, but as soon as it does, there will be, in all likelihood, another witch hunt, it’ll be declared unAmerican, and purged from the face of the earth.

                  Which is why Ross Perot was shot in the head in a Langley basement in 1992.

                • wengler says:

                  The first dictators were temporary, I don’t think there is anything understood by dictatorship other than one person or group decides what to do and that dictate is promulgated by force.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  Among others, your shift from talking about parties to talking about “neoliberalism.” Could you please link to the web site for the American Neoliberal Party?

                  Surely you understand that I’m saying that both major parties that, between two of them, never lose control are neoliberal?

                  Why do you pretend not to? Talk about trolling…

                • Given your habits so far, I’m not inclined to do even the slightest bit of your work for you. If you want to make an argument, you’re going to have to actually make it.

                  Positing that the two competing parties are similar in certain aspects does not demonstrate that they are not genuinely competitive parties. Even if they were actually very similar, the presence of competitive parties, which subject themselves to public elections, would still serve the purpose of reining in corruption, making them pursue broadly-popular policies, punishing failed performance, and otherwise making those parties, and the political leaders that fall under their umbrellas, answerable to the public.

                  Having strong parties, even if they are similar, competing for power also incentivizes them to closely oversee each other. You have at least half the political system that is primed to go after any politician’s failures or transgressions.

                  And all of that is before we even get to the absurdity of the claim that throwing around the word neoliberal, a term which has had its meaning sucked out by inappropriate overuse even more than “fascist,” means there is no ideological distinction between the Democratic and Republican parties.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  Joe,
                  you have two neoliberal parties, one with the southern flavor, one with the northern flavor. That’s the choice you have.

                  Yes, they do compete, but clearly the CPC proved to be more responsive to the needs of the population, more flexible, and less ideological.

                  So, that’s were we are.

                • clearly the CPC proved to be more responsive to the needs of the population, more flexible, and less ideological.

                  Then why are they so terrified of allowing the public to vote for them?

            • djw says:

              This diverges considerably from the standard political science understanding of a “one party” state or regime. Wikipedia gets it right: “All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled participation in the election.” That China (and Mexico 1930-1994, and plenty of other regimes uncontroversially called “one party states”) has taken the latter route rather than the former doesn’t make them a multiparty state.

              • Data Tutashkhia says:

                Same is true about Singapore, and, until recently and for at least 50 years, Japan. Yet no one calls those places single-party states, let alone totalitarian.

                It’s just a way to bad-mouth the official enemies. For those 50 parties will not be enough, while for the officials friends 2 will suffice.

                One shouldn’t take it seriously.

                • justaguy says:

                  So, how would you characterize the Chinese state?

                • elm says:

                  Who considers Singapore to be anything but an autocracy or dictatorship? Certainly no political scientist does.

                  Japan is a more problematic case and some political science definitions of democracy consider Japan to be non-democratic for much of its post-war period, in particular because there was no alternation in party control. The standard, though, is that while the LDP stayed in power, different factions of the LDP alternated in power and that voters knew who was in which faction and could attempt to influence leadership with their vote for politicians in different factions. It’s not perfect, but it does seem to get at a signficant difference between Japan and Mexico of the same time period.

                • djw says:

                  You’re now conflating three entirely different kinds of political regimes: authoritarian regimes (China, Freedom House political rights score of 7, lowest possible), hybrid regimes (Singapore, 5) and democratic regimes (Japan, 1). The relative power and opportunities of minority parties in these three regimes aren’t remotely similar.

                  If I hadn’t followed your extensive history of trolling Crooked Timber all these years under a string of different handles, I’d wonder what this effort at obfuscation was attempting to accomplish.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  Freedom House, really? Jeez.

                  What could I possibly want to ‘accomplish’, other than some entertainment? Isn’t it what everybody else wants to accomplish too? Lighten up, fella.

                • Njorl says:

                  I remember Japan being referred to as a one-party state in the 1970s.

                • djw says:

                  Would you prefer Democracy Index?

                  Japan, 8.08 (just above the threshold for “Full Democracy”)

                  Singapore, 5.89 (“Hybrid Regime, close to “Flawed Democracy”)

                  China, 3.14 (“Authoritarian regime”)

                  The differences on the “Electoral Process and Pluralism” category are even more distinct: 9.17, 4.33, and 0.00. These countries aren’t in the same league as each other. These indexes aren’t the last word, of course, but the burden is reasonably on you to explain why these countries are actually similar, when strong evidence suggests they’re not.

                  And yes, I know you’re just trolling, but others, who haven’t seen your absurd performances at CT over the years, may not be aware of it, and may inadvertently waste their time trying to have a serious conversation with you.

                • What could I possibly want to ‘accomplish’, other than some entertainment?

                  A fair and accurate discussion of the truth?

                  In theory, you could have been trying to accomplish that. Not in practice, obviously, but in theory.

                  And Japan and Singapore were frequently described as one-party states (although not so much in Japan anymore, since the one-party lost recently). Perhaps the reason nobody refers to Japan as a totalitarian state, like China, is because Japan is not a totalitarian state like China.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  djw,

                  but the burden is reasonably on you to explain why these countries are actually similar, when strong evidence suggests they’re not.

                  It is very clear, from the previous comments, in what way they are similar:
                  they all have several parties, one of which is must stronger than the others, and it has (or had, in Japan’s case) been controlling the government forever.

                  And for some reason for only one of them this system is portrayed, in the US, as an evil one-party dictatorship. I wonder why…

                • Ooh, I know!

                  The people being thrown in prison and shot in the back of the head!

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world; higher than China. And capital punishment.

                • None of which has the slightest relevance to either democratic procedures for governance, nor suppression of political dissent.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  A fair and accurate discussion of the truth?

                  You’ve gotta be kidding me.

                  None of which has the slightest relevance to either democratic procedures for governance, nor suppression of political dissent.

                  That’s what you think.

                • You’ve gotta be kidding me.

                  No, seriously, there are people who actually do that. For reals! Blows your mind, right?

                  That’s what you think.

                  Obviously, since I wrote it.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  Joe,

                  No, seriously, there are people who actually do that. For reals! Blows your mind, right?

                  all the views expressed here are, obviously, a matter of opinion. Including that of the Freedom House, with numbers assigned to it.

                  If you believe that you’re holding the ‘correct’ view, and the view I chose to defend here is, what? must be something like ‘revisionism’? — surely you’re kidding yourself.

                • Sounds like a feeble excuse to lie.

            • cpinva says:

              to do otherwise would be bad for business:

              “I’ll also note that there’s been, at least in the last 30 years, a chain of orderly and peaceful succession of the CPC chairmen, which is not typical for even an authoritarian regime.”

              as would legislating and enforcing serious environmental laws. they don’t, because the leadership lives elsewhere, and so the pollution/environmental degradation doesn’t directly affect them personally. as long as they keep getting their cut, they’re happy to let american corporations enslave the locals, and destroy the environment.

        • Ninedragonspot says:

          One of the lines which jumped out at me from the c. 2008, CCP-backed film 建国大业 (The Founding of a Country) was the fictitious Mao Zedong’s criticism of the post-war Guomindang for their failure to establish a multiparty democracy.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        He probably should have said authoritarian.

        I agree. Hard to imagine a blogger tweaking the government (via a fart joke, no less) in, say, North Korea or Hoxha’s Albania.

        • Eggomaniac says:

          I’m told barbecue and grilling are different cooking methods, too. Maybe we can indulge in a pointless side argument about the regime’s failure to clearly distinguish between the two.

          • Karate Bearfighter says:

            Tens of thousands of Public Security officers are about to extract rents on the basis of that distinction.

            • RhZ says:

              But even minor criticisms of the government can and do lead to imprisonment. A guy just got out after a year plus for saying Bo Xi Lai took a dump or some other simple crude statement. This was of course before Bo became Public Enemy Number One, of course…

      • Post-ideological works for me. They don’t believe in anything except trying not to exploit the masses too obviously.

      • Loud Liberal says:

        Authoritarian is a much better characterization. The capitalist exploitation occuring in China is irreconcilable with totalitarian communism, as is the emergence of a capitalist/exploitationist enabled “princeling” society.

        • The Soviet Union demonstrates pretty definitively, from the 50s-80s, that a “princeling,” “exploitationist” system can exist quite nicely within totalitarian communism, without a shred of official capitalism.

          • J. Otto Pohl says:

            It is controversial whether the USSR was totalitarian in the post-Stalin era. It seems to have normalized itself to an authoritarian state between 1956 and 1964 under Khrushchev. There also was a “shred” of “official capitalism” or more accurately free market production and trade in the private kolkhoz plots (legally enshrined as a right in 1936) and the farmers markets used to sell the vegetables, eggs, chickens, and milk produced on them. These goods all generated private profits with the official sanction of the regime. This private retail in fact accounted for a very large portion of the total production and trade of these agricultural goods in the USSR despite the small size of the private kolkhoz plots.

        • wengler says:

          The CP could always crack down on these NEP men though. There are occasional scandals that end with some capitalist or corrupt communist official getting executed. You’d have to think that if there was enough push from the bottom, Communist Party officials would be willing to sacrifice a lot of the new money people in China. It’s not clear to me that the PRC leadership and the new billionaires are one in the same, though they benefit from each other immensely.

    • elm says:

      There has rarely been a truly authoritarian regime (even Stalin and Hitler failed to gain total control of state and society), but even by a less rigid standard, modern China fails to meet the definition of “totalitarian,” what with private enterprise and somewhat meaningful local governance structures. Authoritarian? Definitely. Abuser of human rights? Certainly, and amongst the worst states in the world on this dimension. Not totalitarian, though.

  3. Kurzleg says:

    You’ll get my bbq when you pry it from my cold, dead hands…

  4. justaguy says:

    Environmental issues is the one area where there have been successful protests in China- the Dalian chemical plant protest, and various smaller ones.

    In 1998 I read an article in the People’s Daily blaming Beijing’s smog on illegal Uighur BBQ stands, it was pretty amazing.

  5. ploeg says:

    I vaguely remember a story about red rivers and darkness in Egypt back in the day.

  6. elm says:

    “barbecue-related activities?” Has China hired Bush’s PR guy or is the connecting to “WMD-related activities” a coincidence?

  7. ChrisS says:

    But any regulation will increase prices (and decrease profits) and then John Galt will pack up his factories and move … somewhere.

  8. Carbon Man says:

    Shorter Erik Loomis:

    “Those chinks better not dare try to aspire to a First World lifestyle for the sake of the Earth Goddess. Of course, I like mine just fine…but yellow people can’t have one!”

    • Erik Loomis says:

      What did you have on your pancakes this morning?

      • Carbon Man says:

        So when are you giving up driving, Erik? After all, ZOMG KLIMATE CHANGE WILL DOOM US ALL1!11!! As you constantly remind us, so as a true believer why not set an example?

        • Murc says:

          I’m not Erik, but I imagine he’ll give up driving when robust public transit becomes available to him.

          Besides, what do you care? If Erik’s driving has no downside, you shouldn’t give a damn that he lives in a world where he basically HAS to drive.

          • Carbon Man says:

            I’m exposing his liberal hypocrisy. And I call bullshit on HAVING to drive–he lives in an East Coast university town. Plus, remember, EARTH GODDESS IS DYING CLIMATE CHANGE WILL DOOOOOOOOM US ALL1!1111!! Eleventy111 according to Erik. So any step, no matter how inconvenient to him personally MUST be taken.

            • Trollhattan says:

              You’re exposing something, alright, but it’s nothing about Mister Loomis.

              p.s. Step away from the caps lock, sloooooly.

            • Murc says:

              And I call bullshit on HAVING to drive–he lives in an East Coast university town.

              Er… I’m not sure how living in an university town would remove Erik’s need to drive. Can you explain that?

              Plus, remember, EARTH GODDESS IS DYING CLIMATE CHANGE WILL DOOOOOOOOM US ALL1!1111!! Eleventy111 according to Erik.

              Do you have a quote on that?

              Because I’m pretty sure Erik doesn’t believe in any sort of “Earth Goddess.” I mean, that would just be stupid in all sorts of ways. If there WERE some sort of mythical Earth Goddess, one would expect she’d go all Old Testament on people who were degrading the environment she putatively represents.

              So any step, no matter how inconvenient to him personally MUST be taken.

              I’m not sure I follow. Can you explain how this works?

              The problem isn’t so much Erik as millions of people also doing what Erik does. This would imply it’s a collective problem requiring a collective solution, would it not?

              • Mechazaurus says:

                Er… I’m not sure how living in an university town would remove Erik’s need to drive. Can you explain that?

                Oh come on Murc. We all know what those Earth Goddess worshiping, university going to, Juche preaching liberal enclaves are like. His local lesbian workers soviet probably provided him with a bike made out of recycled Birkenstocks or something.

                • cpinva says:

                  i understand these go well, with a white clam sauce, and a lovely chardenay.

                  “recycled Birkenstocks”

            • Njorl says:

              The American Strawmen Manufacturing Consortium would like to take this opportunity to disavow any connection with this low quality product.

            • spencer says:

              And I call bullshit on HAVING to drive–he lives in an East Coast university town.

              Have you ever been to Providence, trolly? I used to live almost right next door in New Bedford, and I don’t recall either city as being all that pedestrian-friendly.

    • Murc says:

      Eh?

      Living amidst dangerous chemicals that are going to shave decades off your life, give your children cancer, and make it impossible to grow anything across half your country constitutes a first world lifestyle?

      … well, yeah, kind of, I guess.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        Living amidst dangerous chemicals that are going to shave decades off your life, give your children cancer, and make it impossible to grow anything across half your country constitutes a first world lifestyle?

        Carbon Man sprinkles lead shavings and diesel soot on his waffles every morning. JUST TO PISS ERIK LOOMIS OFF.

      • Cody says:

        Yes.

        Carbon Man’s posting has pretty much backed up the point this is indeed his ideal first-world lifestyle.

        Add everyone owning loaded guns pointed at each other so that our lifespans are too short to suffer the long death of cancer, and we’re set.

    • Philip says:

      This post is a marvel of projection.

    • justaguy says:

      What are you talking about? China’s economic development is has been based on industrial production for export. Many companies source their production to China because the lack of enforcement of labor and environmental regulations makes it cheaper to make their products. So, a good deal of Chinese pollution isn’t Chinese at all, its the pollution that people in other countries offshore to China. So, sure, more Chinese people are driving, consuming more stuff, etc.. But its not just about their aspirations to a first world lifestyle, its about our first world lifestyle.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        What are you talking about?

        He’s not talking, he’s trolling. Big difference.

        • Anonymous says:

          He does have a point. It’s all very well for us to have personal autos, extensive social safety nets, democracy, great universities and all the other products of wealth which we have only because of firstly colonialism and more recently the offshoring of our pollution and environmental degradation.

          Any solution that requires china to give up their hopes for true first world living conditions is doomed to total failure.

          • spencer says:

            Any solution that requires china to give up their hopes for true first world living conditions is doomed to total failure.

            Of course, the fact that they are polluting themselves so badly as to prevent the acquisition of first world living conditions is central to the whole point. In order to have first-world living conditions, you’ll need a somewhat cleaner environment than China currently has, and getting there will cost a shit-ton of money.

            So yeah, they can keep burning coal and churning out cheaply-made consumer goods destined for the shelves at Wal-Mart if they want to, but that’s not going to get them to first-world living conditions. No matter what JenBobCarbonTruth says about Erik.

            • Anonymous says:

              Very true spencer, nonetheless I do think my point stands. No solution that requires the rest of the world to give up their hopes for rising out of third a d second world status will be acceptable to the less fortunate nations. China likely views their current environmental issues as equivalent to the pollution of the industrial revolution in Europe: a necessary stage on the way to prosperity.

          • Nigel says:

            If they want first world living conditions, they’re going to need tighter environmental regulations and controls, not red rivers and choking smogs.

      • Carbon Man says:

        No, most of the pollution–by far the vast majority, especially in Beijing–comes from Chinese state-owned coal fired power plants and cars.

        • Alan Tomlinson says:

          And you know this how?

          Alan Tomlinson

        • justaguy says:

          Assuming that’s accurate, so what? Are you suggesting that you can separate what happens in Beijing from the rest of the Chinese economy?

        • Confused says:

          There’s no contradiction here. A huge amount of Chinese air pollution comes from state-owned coal power plants that provide power to private sector manufacturing facilities that make goods for export.

        • rea says:

          His identity is no longer secret–he’s the pancake ninja . . .

          • Bill Murray says:

            I thought he was a pancake wizard

            He plays by intuition,
            The Koch’s on the take.
            That ol’ dumb Carbon Man
            Sure makes a mean pancake!

            He’s a pancake wizard
            There has got to be a twist.
            A pancake wizard,
            S’got such a supple wrist.

        • cpinva says:

          let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, this is accurate.

          “No, most of the pollution–by far the vast majority, especially in Beijing–comes from Chinese state-owned coal fired power plants and cars.”

          this still goes back, not to the US’s “first world lifestyle”, but the chinese gov’ts failure, for business reasons, to make/enforce rigorous enough environmental laws. products manufactured in the US, subject to those laws, trace only a negligible part of their cost to compliance with US environmental laws.

          the big difference, cost wise, is labor. china has little in the way of enforced labor laws, leading to virtual (if not actual, in some cases) slave labor in outsourced US manufacturing. if china enforced environmental and labor laws, these costs, when added to transportation, would pretty much cause china to cease being an attractive outsourcing destination.

          because the leadership that benefits (graft) doesn’t, for the most part, suffer from the environmental/labor abuses, they’re happy to let rapacious US companies degrade their country. it’s rand run wild.

          • justaguy says:

            “leading to virtual (if not actual, in some cases) slave labor in outsourced US manufacturing.”
            What do you mean by that? There have been cases of local governments coercing students to work on iPhone assembly lines for “internships”, can you point to other documented instances of what you would describe as “slave labor” in OEM manufacturing? Most migrant factory workers choose to do the work they do. Rather than viewing themselves as victims, many of them find the work empowering – allowing them more agency within their families because they bring in money, and allowing them to become more worldly by living in big cities. That isn’t to say there aren’t problems with labor abuses and the non-enforcement of Chinese employment law – of course there are. But talking about workers only as victims robs them of their humanity. They are people with lives every bit as large as yours is, who are doing the best they can for themselves with limited options.

            • cpinva says:

              i suppose being locked in at night, behind fences, and not being allowed to leave of your own accord could, in some bizarre, alternate universe, be considered “empowering”. for most normal people, i’m guessing not. granted, there have been only a few instances of what could be termed “actual” enslavement: stories pop up from time to time, usually the consequence of some horrible event happening at the factory, that gov’t officials can’t ignore. mostly it’s slavery of the virtual kind: low wages, horrid working conditions, 12 hour days, degraded environment, etc. this enables everyone but the workers to reasonably profit from production, assuming the workers actually get paid at all. very much like gilded age america, really.

              • RhZ says:

                I will give you two choices: suck my left nut, or suck my right nut.

                If you don’t like those choices, feel ‘free’ to go out and seize the zero other opportunities available.

                And when you make your choice, pls feel empowered about it.

                justaguy has a point, but the reality (which he seems knowledgeable about) is pretty stark.

              • justaguy says:

                I’m basing what I’m saying on social scientists who study migrant labor in China – see Pun Ngai’s Made in China for a good example. If you want to know what migrant workers feel about what they do, you don’t have to imagine what you would feel in their place (or what you imagine that place to be).

                It is possible to acknowledge poor labor conditions in a way that doesn’t treat workers as 1 dimensional victims. And which treats them as human beings who are composing their own lives within limitations.

                • delurking says:

                  While Justaguy has a point here, it’s not a useful one.

                  That is, this is essentially the same point that gets made about all labor exploitation — child labor, right-to-work labor, under-paying certain classes of labor (women, immigrants, whatever): that we need to be sensitive to how this labor is better than the other choices those people have, that those people are autonomous agents who know what they’re doing, that this choice (to work for two bucks an hour, to work twelve hour days in the cotton mill at 12 years old) are so much better than their other choices…

                  All of which elides right over the actual problem. Sure, maybe it does look better, from that hungry worker in the Right to Work state, to take the lousy job for six bucks an hour, because no union job exists. Maybe she is making the best choice she can make, given where she is.

                  The point is she shouldn’t be where she is. The point is the law should be different. So long as the law is as it is, her situation will never improve, and neither will her world. (See child labor, et al.)

                  Instead of being sensitive to her autonomous what the fuck ever, how about we change the law?

                • justaguy says:

                  “Instead of being sensitive to her autonomous what the fuck ever, how about we change the law?”

                  Sure, understanding the complexity of a situation isn’t very useful if it doesn’t lead to change. But I’m not making the point about recognizing the humanity of Chinese migrant workers for for superficial feel good reasons. Transnational supply chains in China are maintained, in part, by stereotypes about Chinese workers. Central to these stereotypes is the idea that workers aren’t people making choices about what they do with their lives, but are being driven from the countryside into factories by economic forces. They’re just cogs in a larger process of economic reform, and against the background of the enormity of that change their exploitation seems inevitable. Focusing on Chinese workers as abject victims retains this stereotype, it just changes your characterization of that overall proces from positive to negative.

                  So, if you look at This American Life’s two episodes on the Mike Daisey affair, in 2 hours of talking about Chinese workers they only talked to one Chinese person – Daisy’s translator, and they just asked her about what Daisey had done. The rest of the shows was essentially a debate between Daisey’s version of workers as abject victims, and Nick Kristoff’s version of workers as cogs in economic development who are moved around by larger economic forces like so many billiard balls. And the show ends on a narcissistic point – the only thing Ira Glass wants to discuss is how the lives of Chinese workers should influence his emotional relationship with his phone.

                  That’s bizarre when you think of the way TAL usually approaches subjects – they tend to flesh out the complexity of individuals they focus on. But here they have two ostensibly competing arguments, but they both collapse the lives of Chinese workers into something less than human – so the emotional connection Glass feels with his phone is more real than the lives of the workers he’s spent a couple of hours discussing.

                  The reason I take issue with describing Chinese workers as abject victims is not just that its completely inaccurate, but that it isn’t the most effective way to change the labor regime.

    • Your write the way I would write if I set out to make fun of you.

    • spencer says:

      You seem to have a lot of trouble with the whole “shorter” concept.

    • wengler says:

      You don’t have to burn coal to get energy. There are other ways.

  9. LeeEsq says:

    China’s pollution is horrible but I really liked their attempt at recreating the first plague that God unleashed upon Egypt and I’m looking forward to how they handle the plague of frogs.

    On a more serious note, the decision of the Chinese government to seriously invest in mass transit rather thna just roads was extremely intelligent. China’s smog problems would be worse if they simply built roads for cars and buses rather than metro systems.

    • Carbon Man says:

      You ever been to Beijing?

      Big-ass beltways (“ring roads) TEN LANES WIDE circle the capital and there are SIX of them with two more in the works! Car sales (especially of SUVs and full-sized Buicks) are off the charts. They love cars and want cars, and Little Erik won’t stop them.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        I know just the thought of breathing poison gives you a big ol’ stiffy, Mr. Truth, but please don’t lock yourself in the garage with the car running, no matter how much it would upset Erik. Just go have some pancakes and the urge will pass.

      • justaguy says:

        Are you familiar with the lottery system which they have imposed to restrict car sales in Beijing?

        Also, its an easy mistake to make but there are only 5 ring roads in Beijing – there is no 1st ring road. And the 5th and 6th, while technically in the city limits, are pretty far out in the suburbs. And,

      • Murc says:

        They love cars and want cars

        Okay? I mean, this is actually true, but is encouraging massive auto ownership good public policy?

      • LeeEsq says:

        Actually, yes I have but it was in 2001. I know that the Chinese middle-class likes cars and that the Chinese government have been building freeways. However, its also been true that the Chinese government has been on an epic of subway and rail construction at the same time. This eleviates the problems somewhat.

      • Cody says:

        Fact Alert: NYC has a subway AND roads.

        Glad I seem to have solved your problem with this comment.

      • sharculese says:

        You ever been to Beijing?

        No, so I guess that’s one thing you and I have in common.

      • daveNYC says:

        Er… so you’re excited about the thought of Chinese people dealing with insane levels of air pollution and suffering from the health effects for years to come? (saying nothing about WTF was up with that red water crap)

      • wengler says:

        China has a billion more people than the US.

        They will have to restrict vehicle traffic or face total gridlock.

      • xxy says:

        LA has freeways TWELVE LANES wide and there are like A DOZEN of them. When I sit in my car during the 90 minutes it takes to travel 10 miles and breathe in the exhaust fumes I think mmmmmmmmmmm that’s the smell of first-world freedom!

  10. Shakezula says:

    And remember, a major part of why China developed this way was that American companies decided that labor and environmental regulations in the United States were cutting into profits too much and so decided to replicate the paradise of the U.S. Gilded Age somewhere else.

    Next – A secret island staffed by zombies.

  11. Cody says:

    Whoa! In China you can get fruit punch from streams!?!?!

    Sign Me Up!

  12. LeftWingFox says:

    Welp. We’re boned.

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-most-terrifying-graph-youll-see-all.html

    End of the world sounds like a decent retirement plan.

  13. Simeon says:

    There’s no such thing as a “totalitarian state”,that’s just a Cold War-era buzzword that doesn’t really mean anything except” the other guys”.

    • The word “totalitarianism” was first invented in 1923 to describer the Italian fascists, and was adopted as a positive term by the leading theorist of the Fascist Party, Giovanni Gentile.

      So, not so much with the Cold War part, or the “other guys” part.

    • wengler says:

      Yeah in the end the difference between being able to talk about whatever you want in a close circle and being paranoid about talking to anyone isn’t much. You still have no access to political power. You still have the danger of getting thrown into a dark hole if you get too far out of line.

  14. Jon Hendry says:

    “a major part of why China developed this way was that American companies decided that labor and environmental regulations in the United States were cutting into profits too much and so decided to replicate the paradise of the U.S. Gilded Age somewhere else.”

    Except… weren’t there some serious environmental wastelands created in the USSR?

  15. [...] to Adult Psychological Disorders, Surprising Even the Study’s Authors How to Stop the Bullies Chinese Environment (last paragraph is key) Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponRedditDiggEmailPrintLike this:Like [...]

  16. [...] Chinese Environment – Lawyers, Guns & Money Feb 21, 2013 … Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed …. Mechazaurus says: … It’s not until 2005 , when Jiang hands the last of his posts over to Hu, that you really see a ….. Ha! The truth is exploiting the masses is all that they do! Reply … [...]

  17. Inmigracion says:

    Another of the great blogposts, keep up the good says…

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