China must sharply improve environmental protection or it could face disaster following two decades of breakneck growth that have poisoned its air, water and soil, the country's top environmental official warned Saturday.There can be little doubt that there's a desperate need for the environment to receive a lot more attention as China plans out its development policies, and the part of the article suggesting that environmental protection will receive some attention in its next development program is only the smallest of steps in the right direction.
The director of the State Environmental Protection Administration said that more than half of China's 21,000 chemical companies are near the Yangtze and Yellow rivers - drinking water for tens of millions of people - and accidents could lead to "disastrous consequences."
"Facts have proved that prosperity at the expense of the environment is very superficial and very weak," Zhou Shengxian said at a news conference during the annual meeting of China's parliament. "It's only delaying disaster."
But while the Chinese regime deserves to be questioned for its policy, it's striking to compare China's apparent attitude with respect to even discussing the environment to that in the U.S. A Chinese regime which is often (and justifiably) slammed for stifling dissent has nonetheless empowered its environmental ministry to criticize the government's shortsightedness.
Meanwhile, the supposed land of the free is working to cherry-pick the data that's already available, to pressure scientists to generate only studies in support of its political viewpoints, and to allow untrained political hacks to overrule scientists who are brazen enough to present inconvenient facts.
If a similar report to Zhou's had been generated in the U.S. at the moment, it's hard to be confident that it would have ever seen the light of day. And it's a dead certainty that Bushco's response would be to minimize it rather than to acknowledge that the data is of value.
Bushco's need to keep science subordinate to the whims of its religious-right backers is an obvious risk factor in the U.S.' effort to keep its position of global dominance. And that risk is all the greater if its main potential competitor is indeed moving toward putting facts and research ahead of ideology - even when the long-term benefits of that research have short-term political costs.