Clash of Interests Holds Back China's Environmental Efforts

Pollution is a growing problem throughout China - one that even tight-lipped public officials have been forced to acknowledge. But conflicting government interests - between state-run polluters and concerned policy-makers - are holding back fixes.
March 23, 2013, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"So severe are China’s environmental woes, especially the noxious air, that top government officials have been forced to openly acknowledge them," reports Edward Wong. "What the leaders neglect to say is that infighting within the government bureaucracy is one of the biggest obstacles to enacting stronger environmental policies. Even as some officials push for tighter restrictions on pollutants, state-owned enterprises — especially China’s oil and power companies — have been putting profits ahead of health in working to outflank new rules, according to government data and interviews with people involved in policy negotiations."

"The state-owned enterprises are given critical roles in policy-making on environmental standards," Wong explains. "The committees that determine fuel standards, for example, are housed in the buildings of an oil company. Whether the enterprises can be forced to follow, rather than impede, environmental restrictions will be a critical test of the commitment of Mr. Li andXi Jinping, the new party chief and president, to curbing the influence of vested interests in the economy."

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Published on Thursday, March 21, 2013 in The New York Times
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