Wednesday, March 05, 2014

At Long Last, China Declared War, On Pollution

Li Keqiang
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers the
"Report on Government Work"
to the National People's Congress (Xinhua photo)
The central government of China finally declared war on pollution during the annual National People’s Congress convention.

In his “Report on Government Work” on March 5, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told thousands of top legislators that China will “determinedly declare war on pollution.”

This is so far the strongest language the central government has used on the matter of environmental pollution. Phrases such as “determinedly deal with” have been used in the past, but to “declare war” is a big leap from the past rhetoric. 

This leap came faster than many people would have expected, myself included. And what can I say? Thanks to the suffocating smog that has frequented Beijing in recent years, where the top leaders live and have to suffer it just like the rest of the over 20 million residents?

It is sad by all accounts, that a beautiful, ancient city has to suffer such heavy pollution. But if not for the smog, which perhaps the premier himself is also sick of, people may have to wait longer for the war declaration.

On the other hand, however, the declaration is only too late as China has experienced exacerbating pollution for no less than two decades.

I have written about the pollution problem in China at least since about eight years ago and have waited and waited to see when the government will become really decisive to curb pollution. But for years, I have seen the government either putting economic growth ahead of the environment, or paying lip service to fighting pollution.

Is it still lip service this time around, albeit louder? I hope not, because Mr. Li Keqiang and Mr. Xi Jinping, the president, need to breathe clean air and see the blue sky, too. While other rich Chinese immigrating to Canada and enjoying the fresh air there, Mr. Li and Xi cannot escape the smog. They better do something about it.