The Most Anti-China Article You’ll Read Today

At Foreign Affairs there’s an article, sub-captioned “The Superpower That Is Poisoning the World”, on China’s environmental problems. It recaps how China is poisoning its air, water, and soil and exporting its environmental problems to its neighbors and the world. Read it and weep.

Back in 2005 I wrote a series of analysis pieces on the problems that face China and environmental degradation was one of those I considered. At the time I surmised that China was capable of dealing with that and the other major problems it faces. Since 2005 China has done very little about any of the problems I considered back then, the problems have gotten worse, and, frankly, time is running out.

FILED UNDER: Asia, Environment,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’ve always been bemused when ardent environmentalists (and I consider myself one) point to China’s successes in pursuing solar power production, hydro- power stations, and other environmentally friendly solutions, without realizing that:

    a. these are being pursued because there is a market, not because they give a sh*t about the environment
    b. China may be producing more clean energy than America, but they are also producing a heckuva lot more dirty energy as well.

  2. DC Loser says:

    The situation cannot go on like this much longer. Public knowledge of the effects of environmental damage to their health is already a big issue, and the political leaders can’t hide that bit of bad news. The pictures of Beijing’s notoriously bad air is not something that can be airbrused away. The pollution’s effects on the food supply chain, added to that of unscrupulous businesspeople who sell contaminated food, has created demand for untainted food for the Chinese middle class. And the bird flu cases continue. This is all a huge deal to the Chinese masses. Let’s all remember that the former Warsaw Pact countries were also hugely polluted, but they are slowly recovering. China will too, but it will take time. They need to get off coal as quickly as they can for energy. Whether that will be nuclear or some other ‘green’ source will remain to be seen. But that’s another way to stimuate their economy with the huge cash surplus they have.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Obviously China’s utterly dystopian environmental issues would be shocking news to the likes of Tom Friedman and his airheaded buddies in the pro-China liberal print and wire media.

    Ultimately third-world countries are third-world countries. You can’t snap your fingers and, voila, a third-world, hard core communistic police state suddenly morphs into paradise by the sea. Doesn’t work that way.

    Keep in mind also that we owe them over a trillion dollars. What kind of de facto banana republic does that make us?

    Lastly, there’s a staggering set of fiscal and economic ironies concerning the US and China, of which the political fringes forever will remain loopy and insouciant. Imagine if we jettisoned the likes of the Sierra Club and its ilk and maximized our domestic oil output. Truly maximized it, including shale oil, offshore, ANWR and a lot more federal oil lands leases. China has an insatiable demand for oil. Now imagine also that we jettisoned the isolationist, xenophobic right-wing.

    We already produce more oil than Saudi Arabia, despite being saddled with the political left-wing. We could outproduce the whole of OPEC in a decade or so. We could sell China below-market oil in exchange for them opening up their import markets to us and not short selling Treasury debt. We boost our exports and thus our GDP and hiring. We close our current account deficit. We increase federal tax revenues without raising tax rates. We help protect ourselves from a sudden spike in interest rates. They get cheap oil. Win-win. Of course the chances of any of that actually happening, however, are about slim to none, and slim already left town.

  4. @Tsar Nicholas:

    “Imagine if we jettisoned the likes of the Sierra Club and its ilk and maximized our domestic oil output.”

    Um..yeah, dude. It’s 2013, not 1980.

    Satellite images of the night sky show the Bakken region positively glowing. The pipeline is going to be built, now that the state of Nebraska is satisfied it won’t pollute their aquifers. (Betcha thought the hold-up was coming from Washington.) Colorado’s governor, a Democrat, is so supportive of fracking, he’s drinking fracking fluid in stunt photo-ops.

    And you’re going off on the Sierra Club and complaining about the political left?? Weird…..

  5. john personna says:

    Heh, shorter Tsar – we should be like China (a la Friedman) but taking the worst parts

  6. Rob in CT says:

    I’m always a little puzzled when people blame the Chinese. They’re doing basically what we (or rather our predecessors) did. We outsourced production to them. Who buys the stuff?

  7. Dan says:

    Let me point out an irony to you, Tsar. Didn’t you say that the EPA in America have to go? What will happen to America’s environment, public health and safety, if the EPA goes?

  8. Dave says:

    I think the thing that is lost on most people in the Chinese pollution debate is how much the developed nations need China to pollute. China almost completely controls the worlds supply of rare earth metals. Not because it is the only place with them, but because the environmental costs associated with mining them. California has deposits of them, but there is no safe way to get them. We need them to run our phones and computers and ask the Chinese to bear the damage of obtaining them. The weird thing in the piece is that talking about groundwater pollution they did not mention this. We have filed WTO suits against China for hoarding these metals because they seemingly are the only people willing to risk the damage to get them. At the same time the production of their cheap goods aids in all of this. However, everyone sits back at their computer typing away saying how horrible China is as a polluter while remaining either blind to or willfully ignorant of their participation.

  9. PJ says:


    What will happen to America’s environment, public health and safety, if the EPA goes?

    The invisible hand of the market will choke it.

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    Tsar managed to create a post where every paragraph directly contradicted another paragraph:

    We can’t expect China to be environmentally friendly automatically–we should sell oil to them!
    China is a third world country–who has as strong an economy as the strongest in the world!
    We should get rid of the Sierra Club for holding us back–we produce more oil than Saudi Arabia!

    To borrow a phrase from Nicky, his stupidity “boggles the mind.”

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Yeah Tsar…let’s race China to the very bottom…what an asinine…and yet so very typical…comment.
    Can you explain to us…why China would invest $1T in the treasury bonds of what you call a de-facto banana republic? Is it because that banana republic is actually the world’s premier economic power maybe? So the US is both a banana republic and a premier economic power? Are you sure? How can that be?
    Buy a dog…name it Clue…then you will have one.

    At any rate…I, like Joe Barton (R: TX) am not concerned about any environmental damage being done by China or anyone else:

    “…I would point out that if you are a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the great flood was an example of climate change…that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy…”

    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Republican…but Joe Barton and Tsar prove every single day that if you are stupid…you are most likely a Republican.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Everybody else has already pointed out Tsar’s other stupidities, but I just can’t let this pass:

    Keep in mind also that we owe them over a trillion dollars. What kind of de facto banana republic does that make us? The kind that China can’t live with out ’cause who else is going to buy their crap?

    Lastly, there’s a staggering set of fiscal and economic ironies concerning the US and China, of which the political fringes forever I will forever remain loopy and insouciant.


    Tsar, to call you as dumb as a box of rocks is an insult to rocks everywhere.

  13. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Yeah, I’m really not understanding your argument. You appear to acknowledge that China has environmental problems, then propose that we make them worse by giving them more cheap oil. Where in your proposal is the part that helps alleviate the environmental problems???

  14. john personna says:


    Remember, Tsar’s “meta” is that he must tie the news of the day to his prior biases.

    When the news of the day is widespread Chinese pollution, and his prior is that “environmentalists are bad,” that’s kind of hard to do.

    But he gives it a shot.

  15. @Tsar Nicholas: Not to pile on, but this really stuck out:

    Ultimately third-world countries are third-world countries.

    China is not now and never was a “third world country.” They were solidly “Second World,” members in good standing of the “red menace.”

  16. inhumans99 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Honestly, I thought Tsar was going to say imagine we opened everthing up that could be drilled / fracked / frikked / or f—-d, sure China and other countries would purchase our natural resources like there was no tomorrow, but also imagine what would happen to our environment.

    Anyway, I for one am glad I do not drink water that is flammable, or that I have to wear a painters mask if I want to take a walk in the Bay area.

  17. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    You are assuming Tsar knows what a first, second, and third world country is. He doesn’t.

    (Actually, to be fair, most people don’t realize the actual outdated definitions).

  18. @Neil Hudelson:

    (Actually, to be fair, most people don’t realize the actual outdated definitions).


    I was just explaining this to my 17 year old nephew yesterday. He was born in 1995, has heard the term “third world country” his whole life, and yet he has never lived in a tripartite world. I suspect Tsar may be a little older, judging from the references to OPEC and the Sierra Club.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    The idea that the Chinese don’t care about their pollution problems is absurd. Ludicrous. I can assure that it is in the newspapers here, that people talk about it all the time and that people with money are willing to pay high premiums for, say, ikea furniture because they believe it won’t outgas hazardous volatiles. Of course there is a very powerful coal industry and even more powerful energy industry that want something done only as long as they keep making money. Sound familiar?

  20. Franklin says:

    @MarkedMan: Thank you for that perspective. By the way, you don’t happen to also post on some automotive forums … I just happen to know another ex-pat named Mark living in China (I know, there’s probably plenty, but …)

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Franklin: different guy, I’m afraid. There are millions of us expats.