The Desolation of Smog - a political solution
Like many developing countries, China has struggled to deal with its pressing environmental issues.
(Source: CNN Money)
Under Mao’s leadership, China underwent heavy industrialisation in an attempt to "conquer nature". Since then, China’s growing economy has been linked with environmental degradation, lowering the quality of life of Chinese residents. It seems that Chinese political leaders have continuously chosen economic growth over environmental protection - a worrying trend to many. The failure of China’s legislation and courts to control environmental pollution is a direct result of policies enacted by Chinese political leaders. However, despite the dire situation, I remain optimistic about China’s environmental future due to the need of the Chinese Communist Party to address these issues in order to guarantee a harmonious society.
In the past, the failure of Chinese courts to enforce environmental laws has aggravated environmental challenges. Chinese political leaders have chosen economic growth over environmental protection, preventing the enforcement of laws on conservation; this is woven into China’s political structure, as proven economic growth often results in the promotion of its civil servants.
The number of jobs that these industries provide makes these companies irreplaceable, giving these firms a huge sway over the economy, making it hard for local governments to control. Government officials also often view the consequences of closing these corporations as more serious than those of environmental pollution. Due to widespread corruption, strong links exist between local governments and industries, allowing government officials to eat into the profits of such corporations. Local government officials’ career advancements and financial interests become dependent on local industries, meaning that they are willing to disregard their obligation to the protection of the environment.
Furthermore, whilst many countries ensure judicial independence, this is not the case in China. Chinese local governments fund local courts; the subjugation of the judiciary means that courts cannot fairly assess cases without interference. As a result of this convoluted political structure, Chinese courts have been unable to enforce existing environmental laws, leading to these worsening problems.
The inefficiency of Chinese environmental departments has also posed as a challenge to environmental protection. Chinese car manufacturers and power plants frequently violate environmental standards, a fact known to Chinese government departments responsible for environmental supervision. However, sloppily written environmental laws have not properly delegated responsibility to enforcement of such laws, whilst confusing environmental departments with its vague wording. Legislators responsible for writing environmental laws often have a stake in the profits of heavy industries, and deliberately sabotage the legislation in favour of personal interests. As a result of these poorly written laws, corporations have been allowed to function without environmental regulation. In order to be competitive in their industries, companies are often reluctant to upgrade their facilities to meet environmental standards. These poorly written environmental laws lead to the inefficiency of Chinese environmental departments, allowing industries to go unregulated.
(Source: NY Times)
Pressure from the people
Although current environmental challenges stem from China's inefficient political structure, the solution to such problems relies on Chinese politics. As the only political party in China, the Chinese Communist Party is completely responsible for protecting the interests of Chinese residents. While economic development has been a large priority to Chinese residents in the past, environmental degradation has increasingly become a concern to the Chinese, especially to the middle-class. In order to promote a harmonious society and prevent environmental protests, the Chinese Communist Party will have to address environmental concerns. Past precedents, such as the environmental movements in the former Soviet Union which transformed into separatist governments, act as a warning to the Chinese government.
As the world’s largest global investor in green technology, China has the potential to address current environmental challenges. While China’s leadership has chosen to ignore environmental protection in the past, that will soon prove to be impossible as the environment worsens. As a political party with absolute power, the Chinese Communist Party has the authority to overturn current failures of the judiciary and legislation. Therefore, as environmental degradation increasingly threatens stability in China, I believe that it will be in the best interests of the Party to protect the environment.