I am going to Los Angeles this weekend, to attend the Milken Institute’s Forum, one of the top annual gathering of the world’s rich and powerful. I will be moderating a panel on China’s environment, and have advised my panelists that gas masks or SARS-era face wraps are optional but preferred.
I am an eternal optimist and will take an optimistic line in the panel. But the pall of shit that hangs these days over the cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong makes it difficult to defend the position. I raised this with a reasonably senior Shanghai official the other day and he said: “Not to worry, all will be well by 2010. By that date, all the basic and major public infrastructure projects in the city will have been completed, and emissions standards for vehicles will have been significantly raised.”
I think he is right. But I would, wouldn’t I.
My back-up argument is that China is a shame culture. And Shanghai officials are very proud of their city and of the position they believe it should occupy on the list of the world’s Top Cities. People are talking more and more about Shanghai’s shitty air. The leaders will want to do something about it, and thanks to the political system the city enjoys – centralized proletarian dictatorship – they have the ability to make changes and implement measures in ways that Bombay, Hong Kong and New York can only dream of.
I wish to make it clear that this is a statement of fact rather than an endorsement of a particular political party.