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The lingering poor air quality in Beijing and many other cities is a reminder of the serious challenge of pollution and the need to make greater efforts to protect the environment.
It should prompt us to rethink our overall pollution-battling strategy and revamp our development philosophy so that environmental considerations become an integral part of economic development decision-making.
While China has rapidly shaken off general poverty in the past three decades through economic reforms and opening-up, it has been facing increasingly serious environmental problems.
The smothering smog in many parts of the country in recent months has made the headlines. But severe water pollution, ecological degradation and polluted soil, are also problems that demand immediate and effective solutions.
That the authorities have become more conscious of the situation is undeniable, and they have never ceased to introduce measures to reduce the effect of environment damage.
But as a manufacturing-based economy, China must tackle the problem through making its economic growth less dependent on sectors that are heavily polluting.
For example, China each year exports large numbers of textile, chemical and metallurgical products. But these sectors are also pollution-intensive, meaning China has to shoulder the environmental costs while providing low-priced quality products for the global market.
Behind the unbalanced cost-benefit sharing scenario, ostensibly, is the low environmental standards and loose implementation of environmental protection rules.
At the root is the GDP-oriented mentality that puts economic growth above all.
The central authorities have put forward the idea of economic restructuring in recent years, which rightly seeks a balance among growth, the environment and sustainability. But it is yet to be embraced by all government departments and officials.
It is time the nation made the hard but necessary choice to seek a better environment at the cost of economic growth.
In reality, it will be an insurmountable challenge for local officials to make that choice unless the flawed performance assessment system, which remains centered on growth figures, is reformed to include environmental soundness.
(China Daily 06/24/2013 page8)