Opinion / Chen Weihua

US and China should learn to tango rather than fight a trade war

By Chen Weihua (China Daily) Updated: 2017-01-06 07:30

US and China should learn to tango rather than fight a trade war

Smoke is discharged from chimneys at a plant in Huai'an city, East China's Jiangsu province, Jan 31, 2015. [Photo/IC]

The severe smog that shrouds Chinese cities and the traffic woes that haunt US cities are reminders of how much the two countries can learn from and help each other in tackling such issues instead of engaging in a trade war which the incoming US administration has hinted it will initiate.

This week, Beijing is once again under a very high alert, shortly after a red one, the most severe smog warning in a four-tier system, announced on Dec 16.

Amid the New Year holiday celebrations and partying, the toxic smog that has blanketed the Chinese capital has become the most talked-about subject of all domestic social media. People's anxiety has reached levels never seen before. They have compared notes on which masks are the most effective and most have expressed dissatisfaction with the efforts made to tackle the smog in the past years, which have made little progress.

"Smog terror," "nuclear winter" and "gas chamber" are just some of the words used to describe the horrendous air pollution.

It is true that the air pollution smog may not disappear in the coming years, but it would reassure people that the fight will one day be its severity lessens rather than worsens. While the Beijing authorities reported this week that there had been more good air quality days last year than the previous year, that the situation is improving is not the general impression the public has.

There are strong doubts that all the environmental laws and regulations are being strictly enforced, and whether the Ministry of Environmental Protection and its subsidiaries have the necessary teeth, as their counterparts in other countries have.

For example, Los Angeles suffered from severe air pollution 20 years ago. Yet a University of Southern California study released a year ago showed that air pollution has declined significantly over the past two decades. As a result, residents are healthier, especially in lung function and lung growth among children.

Stricter regulations and strong enforcement are regarded as a major contributor to the improvement. The state of California, where Los Angeles is located, is now the leader in environmental technology and standards.

That is what China, Chinese cities and provinces should aspire to be in combating air pollution. And it will be a win-win if the two countries strengthen cooperation in this regard.

Everyone loves blue sky. However, it is joyless to see fellow Chinese taking and posting pictures of clear blue sky in Beijing because it's so rare.

While Chinese visiting the US often marvel at the clear sky in the US, many Americans who visit China often praise the high-speed trains and smooth subways.

The Wednesday morning train crash in Brooklyn, New York, which injured more than 100 passengers, came three months after a train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, that killed one bystander and destroyed part of the historic train terminal.

One of my fellow Chinese journalists based in Washington described her recent ride on the slow and wobbly No 7 train from Flushing, Queens, to the Times Square as torture. Asked why New Yorkers don't complain about this, one fellow American journalist, a New Yorker, replied: "Maybe people are just used to this."

The same problem exists in Washington DC's Metro system which is finally undergoing massive repairs after ignoring decades of warning. Major delays caused by scheduled and unscheduled repairs are commonplace in the US capital.

China has done a marvelous job in building its subway systems. Both Shanghai and Beijing have built subway systems whose total length is greater than that of the one in New York City in about a decade, while the Second Avenue Subway in New York took literally a century to be completed and opened to traffic on Jan 1.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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