Are Efforts to Improve the Livability of China's Cities Hurting the Country's Economy?

As China continues to mature into a developed nation, efforts aimed at making its largest cities more environmentally sustainable and healthy may be putting a damper on the country's economic growth.
September 7, 2012, 5am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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In a country renowned for its polluted skylines, China is slowly cracking the whip on polluters with new regulations aimed at making its cities cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable. "The measures have the potential to help clean up China's notoriously dirty air and water, reduce long-term health care costs and improve the long-term quality of Chinese growth," reports The New York Times' Keith Bradsher. For example, in Guangzhou, one of the country's biggest auto manufacturing centers, license plate auctions and lotteries will limit the number of automobiles on the city's streets, following Beijing's precedent.

Yet, with an ongoing economic slowdown in many parts of China, some are worried about regulations' role in clamping down on economic growth. "Some executives in China complain about rising regulatory costs, particularly as new rules at the local level coincide with rising wages," says Bradsher. "Critics in the business community say that an economic slowdown may not be the best time for China to turn away from the largely unrestrained dash for prosperity of the last three decades."

However, Bradsher sees the regulations as part of a larger transition taking place within the country. "China is no longer just a developing economy that has pursued a particularly raw form of capitalism, while remaining Communist in name. It is becoming a modern, industrialized economy whose leaders increasingly listen to public opinion and seek to balance the environment, social welfare and many other issues against economic growth."

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Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 in The New York Times
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