People who are fascinated with manufacturing and industry (like me) spend a lot of time thinking about where those jobs are going and what it all means. And a lot of us blame a lot of things on China. Which is probably accurate, to a certain extent. Probably not, to a different extent.
But no matter what you think of it, you ought to check out this article about what's happening to the environment in China. If you have read anything about the history of Pittsburgh, you will probably recognize some of the language.
Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.
Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.
Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.
Interesting. For years, I have heard a lot of people claim that tariffs and other punitive trade measures would "level the playing field" with China--or whichever Asian bugaboo was stealing American jobs at the time. Other folks insisted on trade agreements that would force costs to rise in Asia, either by encouraging unions or mandating expensive work and safety rules.
But now it seems that the great "leveling" could come through environmental regulations. Which, of course, the Chinese government would resist. And we would be somewhat powerless to enforce--apart from closing our ports. Hmmm... All of which seems to do the strange trick of putting environmentalists in bed with American manufacturing. Sure, they are already tight with labor. But that's a different thing altogether.
These are not original observations, to be sure. But it will be weird to see how it all pans out. Especially with the whole Olympics thing coming up.