China Needs to Bring The Environment Back in Sync

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Harmonious Society
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The environment actually could hinder economic growth.

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<p>I think that the advent of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao helped to crystallize a new understanding of the importance of the environment and how the environment related to a number of different things that were more important to the Chinese leadership. And when they came in with their ideas about harmonious society, I guess this was about '02-'03, it was really a broader effort, that encompassed the environment, that said, &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had 20 odd years of pell-mell, unfettered growth. Now, we look and we see there are many, many negative ramifications of this growth and the environment was one of them. How do we bring the environment back in sync?&rdquo; So, I think this was a moment when they realized that the environment actually could hinder economic growth. If you don&rsquo;t have enough water to run your factories, as happened in Xi'an at one point, for example, you don&rsquo;t have economic output. &nbsp;So, land is becoming degraded and villages are becoming submerged in sand, as is happening in northern China, and then, you have tens of millions of migrants, environmental refugees, within your own country. They have to find new jobs, new housing and develop a new educational infrastructure for these people. There are enormous costs then, that are associated with what had seemed to be, essentially, a free ride.</p>
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Elizabeth Economy describes how the Party leadership came to realize that unchecked environmental degradation could slow down economic growth and how it has changed its policy outlook accordingly.