Why is China all of the sudden becoming so interested in the health of the environment?



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    Conservation and other green policies in China have been increasing in recent years for a number of reasons, but an argument can be made that it’s happening for the same reason most countries do anything: it’s good business. Since the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China turned away from a purely ideological approach to economic development in the 1970s, China’s economy has boomed tremendously. Like most economies involving large amounts of heavy industry, Chinese businesses and government officials discovered that charging full-bore ahead with short-term-profitable strategies with no heed to environmental practices eventually impacted the bottom line. Pollution is difficult and expensive to clean up, and therefore at least some thought to “greening” industrial processes is good business. China has also taken proactive steps to improve its environmental record. The “Green Wall of China,” designed to reforest large parts of the country to hold back the encroachment of the Gobi Desert, was begun in 1978 and is expected to continue for another 60 years. The Chinese hope to replace forestland that was denuded during their periods of expansion in the mid-20th century. An effort to save China’s endangered pandas has been ongoing since the 1950s. China has also begun to take notice that the world marketplace is less tolerant of goods produced in environmentally or socially irresponsible ways. Recent bans and recalls of Chinese-made goods, such as toys contaminated with lead, impact the bottom lines of Chinese companies. In a nutshell, the Chinese are beginning to discover–as the rest of the world is–that environmental responsibility is a business opportunity. Whether they or any government or corporation cares about environmental health for its own sake or to make a buck is irrelevant, so long as they are committing resources to the problem (or at least not making it worse).

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