Only in China

By ,

The average day at my office in downtown Beijing, 2005.

China has just announced the forced shutdown of 2 000 old and inefficient industrial plants (AFP article). Some are government run, others are privately owned. This strong handed move to close polluting plants could only be done in China (or some other autocratic state). But, criticize China for their pollution we might, when they decide to move, they move big and fast. As the famous sinologist, Alain Peyfritte apply stated, “Quand la Chine s’eveillera, le monde tremblera” (When China wakes, the world will tremble).

In 2005, I interned at Danieli, an Italian contractor to steel factories, in Beijing. During my year in China, I visited innumerable steel factories from the most inefficient to the newest plants in China. Even then, there was a strong push to close old factories and replace them with new, clean and efficient plants. Prior to the 2008 Olympics the government shutdown and dismantled the Shogung plant in Beijing, the steel plant was literally inside Beijing – you could take the subway there. That move, along with others helped dramatically reduce pollution in the capital.

Upon my return to China in 2009, I noticed a massive difference in the level of pollution. Yes, it is still very polluted, but it now felt like a major American city on a bad day instead of a large city in a developing country. These 2000 shutdowns matter a great deal and will have a significant impact on pollution in the country. If only the Canada had the courage to enact strong legislation we might not be the largest polluters (per capita) in the world. The chinese shutdowns will also serve as an example and warning to the rest of Chinese industry that Beijing is attacking the green revolution on both sides – developing new technology and killing old practices.