Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 19:54 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 19:54 | SYDNEY

A view of Beijing hills


Allan Gyngell

8 November 2007 11:10

Back in Beijing for the first time in twelve months, I was greeted by a remarkable sight from my hotel bedroom – the western hills under a clear blue sky. By today the familiar acrid haze has closed in again and you realise what a big job the ‘Bureau of Weather Modification’ (the Chinese are nothing if not ambitious) will have for the Olympics next year. 

Ten years ago I attended a conference here on the Chinese environment. Hank Paulson, now US Treasury Secretary and a long-time environmentalist, was one of the speakers. It was marked by a nervous tentativeness amongst the Chinese officials. Now, with the full sanction of the 17th Party Congress, every conversation about China’s future is green-tinged. But it is not carbon emissions and global warming that are the immediate concern here – it’s the air and water. The China Daily reports proudly today that after ten years of work the river in Shanghai is now clean enough to be used to irrigate crops. 

China’s environmental debate is not yet the same as ours. In the 2007 World Public Opinion survey, in which the Lowy Institute participated, 69 per cent of Australians thought that global warming was such a critical threat that we should take immediate steps even if they were costly.  Only 42 per cent of Chinese agreed. China may have discovered environmentalism, but that is not going to make the negotiations on a post-Kyoto agreement much easier.