There was wider criticism about Chinese environmental policy and its bumpy track of development. China has experienced deleterious consequences in its air and ground water quality. But now things have started to change under the leadership of Xi Jinping. China is evidently shifting its traditional way of development where environment is getting special concern. Environment is also a thing to be governed otherwise it would see a tragedy generated ruthless human induced activities.
Xi Jinping’s leadership brought some radical changes regarding environmental concern. Chinese corporates and civil society are also determined to erase the image of environmental austere. China has also engaged in multilateral negotiations at international level on greenhouse gas to curb emission. China has become the leading force to generate renewable energy by installing vast solar plants and being largest producer of wind power. China has also built 680000 electric vehicles, buses, and trucks surpassing total world production in recent years. Trump has on the other hand pulled USA out from Paris Climate Accord where China sticks to it. Various local and foreign organizations are now praising Chinese move to environmental policy. Especially changes in its governance are eye staking. This paper will try to note them briefly comparing traditional stance.
A changing landscape of actors:
With the leadership of Xi Jinping, various actors have emerged while a few have retreated from environmental management affairs in domestic level. Players comprise both conventional and non-conventional including judges, prosecutors, environmental NGOs and Chinese citizens as well. Idea of environmental justice in China is outcome of it. Recent empowerment of local tax bureaus to collect taxes related to environmental pollution and Environmental Police have a great consequence to implement Chinese environmental policy. New environmental tax was inaugurated recently which makes it harder for polluters to pollute and dump. It works as a preventive shield towards unhygienic production.
Previously Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPBs) were responsible for collecting environmental taxes but now local tax bureaus are empowered to collect taxes more sophistically. On the other hand, environmental police was a unique contribution of china starting from Kunming in 2008 to dozens of cities now in 2019. This special police force patrols around cities to detect and prevent pollution and dumping. China is also using Chinese communist party hierarchy to create governance. One river, One Chief system empowers provincial leaders to maintain water quality of rivers. They can approach to polluting industries without bureaucratic muddling and take action instantly.
Another improvement of Chinese environmental policy is dismantling the Ministry of Environmental Protection with new wide encompassing the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. This radical reformation is aimed to create more coherent environmental policy and reduce bureaucratic fragmentation. Though all these developments have criticism but carry potentiality to tackle negative climate change.
Tough laws and campaigns:
a new stance in China
Along with bureaucratic reform, China is also improving in the field of environmental law and ad-hoc campaigns. It has introduced few laws and mechanism to address climate change. State council’s introduction to “Regulations on open government information” in 2007 has taken to deal with information disclosure about pollutions. Various technical measurements of air and water quality index are notable in recent development. China as an authoritarian state heavily relies on carrot and stick policy to manage environmental mismanagement. Revised environment protection law in 2014 paves a new era in China. Officials can charge polluters as they wish to impose without any ceiling. This law also held government officials responsible if they fail to charge polluters. Once environmental law was titular but now context has changed. Almost 10,000 polluters including government officials were punished under this law in 2016-17 where few were put in prison. Communist party is now providing incentive to local rulers and officials to battle against pollution and environmental change as a whole. But over emphasis on compensation force is widely criticized.
China has also developed action based campaigns to get quick result. Basically Chinese Communist Party’s leaders mobilize vast number of party loyalists to take instant action against polluting companies. They might cut off electricity connection or gas service to destroy polluters’ dwellings. It also has negative effects but quite effective.
Finally we will look at China’s utilization of technology in environmental governance. Using technological means like GPS, GIS or remote sensing provide a real time information exchange. As a result respective authorities can analyze, report on, and response to pollution and tree coverage area. Drones are used to detect waste dischargers. China also uses big data to predict environmental scenario.
Undoubtedly Xi Jinping’s leadership is a juncture. First and foremost, China is not walking on skeptic vision of climate change. Chinese sentiment of denial of environmental concern is not still relevant. Rampant development is unacceptable at this stage. Priority of development should not exceed environmental cost is also now widely recognized among Chinese people and party. Both people and party does not consider climate change as a hoax as referred by Trump. This perceptional change deserves credit. It is also a great teaching for Bangladesh thatwe should not clinch to Chinese old development model rather learns from recent environmental measures balancing economic growth. At the end of the day, we will have to stay in this planet, breathe within its atmosphere.
The writer is an analyst on international relations, environment.