Cleaning Up Pollution

Published on Author miller

Many have already posted on pollution in China, but I found this article telling a different story than we are used to on the matter.  In a reversal of Government policy, the CCP has created new rules requiring over 15000 institutions, even some of the biggest state owned ones, to not only record, but to “to make public in real time details of their air pollution, waste water and heavy-metals discharges” (Economist). In recent years such data had been collected secretly by the Government, but was never allowed to see the light of day.

The growing concerns of citizens about pollution served as the main impetus behind the change in the CCP’s policy on pollution data. A recent poll found that pollution ranked fourth on citizen’s list of concerns, coming in behind inflation, corruption, and inequality. While simply publishing the data will not fix the emissions problem alone, it will fuel public awareness and consumers can make informed decisions. I find it interesting that this reform comes from the bottom up, in a grass roots sort of manner. It reminds me of the Li book, in which the author emphasizes that the farmers were not powerless to the almighty government, but rather there were exchanges and pressures from farmers that helped to shape policy.


Further Reading: The Economist

4 Responses to Cleaning Up Pollution

  1. I think this is a good point to make, especially in regards to the movement coming from the bottom up. It seems that normally when one considers the Chinese government, it is a conception of a government that leaves little up to the voice of the people. However, this is an indication of a movement in the right direction in allowing the opinions of the Chinese populace to shape policy. I hope to see more of this type of action moving forward.

  2. What I think will be interesting to see now is how the institutions under scrutiny will respond. If the government was already collecting the relevant data for these firms and they found something unsatisfactory, I would expect the firms to have already reacted. By making the data public, it seems the government may be trying to encourage firms to clean up or else lose consumer favor rather than punish the firms directly. An interesting move.

    • I also think it will be interesting to see how the firms will respond. The government in China is really strict about rules so the institutions must change to lower their pollution level. How will they balance between their growth/profit vs. lowering pollution (or following rules)?

  3. This reflects a “Kuznets Curve” response to pollution, in which the citizens in countries that are poor don’t want to complain, trading off the environment for jobs. Such jobs may also be labor intensive and comparatively non-polluting and low in energy utilization. But China is no longer poor (and partly for that reason pollution is worse, too), and its population no longer passive.
    As the Economist points out, the impetus rests with the US Embassy in Beijing, which began publishing daily air pollution data. Others followed.
    Finally, isn’t such information critical for any policy response? If you don’t know the where’s and why’s of pollution, you really have a hard time implementing meaningful measures.