Editorial: Society Should Determine How to Manage Development vs. Environmental Protection Trade Offs

In my opinion, the major takeaway from Beijing’s recent “airpocalypse” wasn’t the magnitude of the horrid pollution, but the freedom in which internet users and mainstream media organizations covered it.  There comes a point where political posturing over the technical specifics of 2.5PPM seems prosperous when you can barely make out the building across the street from you.  This was an article I came across in the indispensable Sinocism newsletter, and it is about as scathing a piece as I’ve ever read in mainstream Chinese media.

Note- There were a few sentences which gave me trouble here.  I’ve posted this article to /r/Chineselangauge, let’s see if we can figure these out.


Editorial:  Society should Determine how to Manage Development vs. Environmental Protection Trade offs

Across the country, over 30 cities have been experiencing severely bad haze, notably Beijing.  This has sparked fierce public debate with ample resentment and self deprecation coming forth across the media and the internet.  Facing the dark, gloomy urban skies, one after another people in China are asking “what is going on?” and “what are we going to do?”

Environmental pollution in China is still accumulating.  Although recent political measures have had effects, the magnitude of the problem hasn’t improved.  On a macro level, China’s industrialization is not yet complete, and infrastructure construction is in full swing.  China is still the world’s largest construction site, lives up to its name as “the world’s factory”, and is in the process of becoming the world’s “car kingdom”.  China manufacturs 70% of the world’s iron and steel and roughly half of the world’s cement.  Under these circumstances, there is no way China can be as clean as Western countries.

But the recent pollution indeed does ring alarm bells.  It tells us that without adjusting our current development model, we will be suffocated, and never reach the other side.

So how do we make adjustments?  This is one of the biggest problem China faces.  Development is both a right, and a strong wish of the Chinese people.  Simultaneously, an unpolluted, or less polluted, environment is also demanded.  Under current technological conditions in China, these two stand opposite each other   In the near term, finding the best of both worlds is a pipe dream.

The government fundamentally cannot determine the answer to this problem on behalf of society.  Past governments took a “low key approach” to information about pollution.  Today, society won’t buy this approach.  A new conflict has emerged.  

From now on, the government must publicly communicate the truth about the pollution which surrounds us without delay, and allow society to participate in the entire process of resolving this problem.  Managing the relationship between development and pollution will be a thorny issue, but in the process of democratizing China, now is the right time.  Citizens should understand the importance of development, but also the urgency of maintaining a threshold of environmental protection.  This difficult choice of confronting these trade offs should proceed through the democratic process.

Whether it is environmental protection or paying lip service to environmental protection, in reality only pursuing development is reckless; pursuing environmental protection at the expense of anything else is impulsive.  China should actively find a carefully calculated balance between the two.

All sorts of extreme and provocative viewpoints surface in Chinese public opinion, often changing directions without cause.  The government administration —– (Reddit- help with this paragraph?)

In this period, lots of anger over the pollution is directed at the government, not all of it misdirected. It is obvious the government isn’t the only responsible party when it comes to this problem, but the government must fundamentally alter its secretive and unclear practices in dealing with pollution and environmental issues.  It must be open and transparent dealing with this “pressure valve” ….

Environmental issues should be considered solely environmental issues, avoiding politics here is just complicating the issue.  Dealing with this huge problem in Chinese society should be dealt with using facts and practical experience, and can become a model for how China handles other issues.  Environmental problems have already left us suffering miserably, we shouldn’t let political issues further stir up our problems.

After fully confronting our environmental problems, Chinese society can soberly weigh the issues, and pursue decisions in our collective interest.

Original Chinese (article here)