CHINA / National

'Learn from mistakes of Western countries'
By Jamie Thompson (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-26 05:58

China can achieve economic growth and environmental protection at the same time, a conference in Beijing was told at the weekend.

Former US Governor Christine Whitman told business and governmental leaders who gathered from across Northeast Asia that the country could learn from mistakes made by countries in the West as they developed.

The event, called Paths to Sustainable Growth in Northeast Asia, was organized by Eisenhower Fellowships (EF) and the China Education Association for International Exchange.

It was the first in a series of planned regional conferences across the world by EF. The private, non-profit organization aims to create a global network of emerging leaders from various fields to create dialogue and collaboration.

Whitman, who also served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States for two years from 2001, stressed the importance of protecting the environment to delegates.

She went on to explain the situation in China in an interview with China Daily at the event.

"With the rate of growth, there is enormous pressure to move forward but you have to understand it does not have be an either-or equation.

"You can have both realistic economic growth and good environmental protection.

"Economically speaking, it's far more cost effective to prevent pollution than to try to clean it up."

A white paper on the nation's environment released earlier this month said China is experiencing less environmental pressure but still has major issues to tackle.

It said nine environmental protection laws, about 50 regulations and around 800 environmental standards have been enacted in the country to date.

Whitman, who said she placed an emphasis on protecting the environment during her time as governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, said lessons could also be learned from other countries' mistakes.

"You can't translate anything directly from what happened in the United States and Europe to what is happening here in China, but there are similarities," she said.

"And we now have the wonderful advantage of modern technology.

"There are a number of new technologies that have been developed which enable you to prevent some of the problems that Western nations have had as they developed."

Saturday's conference, held at the Peninsula Palace Hotel, featured a range of other topics, including technology, finance and energy consumption.

The EF has sponsored more than 1,600 "fellows" including 50 in China since its launch in 1953 as a tribute to then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The conference attracted fellows from across the region as well as the United States.

EF President John Wolf said: "What we wanted to do was to bring a group of young leaders together to take advantage of the many synergies there already are in this region.

"EF wants to be part of that process.

(China Daily 06/26/2006 page2)