China's internal power struggle

As the recent benzene spill in northeastern China continues to endanger the local citizens and harm the Middle Kingdom's international reputation, the growing anger is worrying Beijing's autocratic leadership.  But, ironically, Beijing's hands are often tied because of uncooperative local bureaucratic officials with their own agendas.
 
BusinessWeek reports on a survey that shows the changing concerns of China's growing urban middle class. Since China's reform and opening policies started in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, environmental issues were always a secondary concern, compared to more pressing concerns at that time, such as finding a good job and saving enough money for a child's tuition.

But as China's some 60 million middle class families grow more affluent, the quality of the environment has become a hot topic in mass media and internet chat rooms.  BusinessWeek says that a survey of 10 cities late last year by Beijing—based Horizon Group showed that China's urban residents are more concerned about air quality and the environment than they are about economic development or even social security.

As with many social and economic challenges plaguing the world's most populated country, such as the lax enforcement of intellectual property laws, the Communist leadership's directives are often ignored.  BusinessWeek goes on:

As is often true in China, even as authorities in Beijing attempt to rein in the worst polluting factories and issue new regulations to clean up the environment, the central government is often stymied by its inability to assert power over the provinces. That reality was evident when early this year China's State Environmental Protection Administration ordered 30 hydroelectric projects to shut down for not carrying out required environmental impact assessments —— but was roundly ignored.

This internal power struggle will probably harm China's efforts to fight another emerging danger — bird flu.  With an estimated 14 billion poultry roaming the countryside, let's hope all levels of the Chinese government are on the same page.

Brian Schwarz  11 29 05

As the recent benzene spill in northeastern China continues to endanger the local citizens and harm the Middle Kingdom's international reputation, the growing anger is worrying Beijing's autocratic leadership.  But, ironically, Beijing's hands are often tied because of uncooperative local bureaucratic officials with their own agendas.
 
BusinessWeek reports on a survey that shows the changing concerns of China's growing urban middle class. Since China's reform and opening policies started in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, environmental issues were always a secondary concern, compared to more pressing concerns at that time, such as finding a good job and saving enough money for a child's tuition.

But as China's some 60 million middle class families grow more affluent, the quality of the environment has become a hot topic in mass media and internet chat rooms.  BusinessWeek says that a survey of 10 cities late last year by Beijing—based Horizon Group showed that China's urban residents are more concerned about air quality and the environment than they are about economic development or even social security.

As with many social and economic challenges plaguing the world's most populated country, such as the lax enforcement of intellectual property laws, the Communist leadership's directives are often ignored.  BusinessWeek goes on:

As is often true in China, even as authorities in Beijing attempt to rein in the worst polluting factories and issue new regulations to clean up the environment, the central government is often stymied by its inability to assert power over the provinces. That reality was evident when early this year China's State Environmental Protection Administration ordered 30 hydroelectric projects to shut down for not carrying out required environmental impact assessments —— but was roundly ignored.

This internal power struggle will probably harm China's efforts to fight another emerging danger — bird flu.  With an estimated 14 billion poultry roaming the countryside, let's hope all levels of the Chinese government are on the same page.

Brian Schwarz  11 29 05