2013 ‘Year of Disappointment’ For China’s Environment
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2013 ‘Year of Disappointment’ For China’s Environment


As 2013 draws to a close, the environmentally-focused non-profit Chinadialogue looked back on the Year of the Snake, and concluded that it was a “year of disappointment” for China’s environment. Chinadialogue’s Beijing editor Liu Jianqiang penned the piece, which called for China’s government to increase its efforts at “openness, participation and holding officials to account.” “We cannot assume that companies will sacrifice profits for the sake of the environment or public health, nor can we rely on certain government departments to do all they should,” Liu argued.  In order to really make China’s environmental protection policies effective, Liu wrote, China needs to make relevant information accessible to the public, to allow more participation in environmental protection from the general public, and to seriously punish government officials who turn a blind eye to environmental damage.

It certainly hasn’t been a good year for China’s environment, beginning with the “air-pocalypse” in Beijing in January and ending with historic levels of smog over Shanghai in December. No wonder the word “haze” made it into Xinhua’s list of the top 10 most popular words of 2013. Xinhua’s explanation noted that Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu all set new records for smog this year. For an English translation of Xinhua’s full list of popular words, see China Story.

In other news, Politico explores the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led President Barack Obama to announce Sen. Max Baucus as the new nominee for U.S. Ambassador to China. Vice President Joe Biden, a close friend of Baucus’s from their time together in the Senate, was supposedly the chief advocate within the White House on Baucus’s behalf. The story also explores the domestic political ramifications of the move. For one, Baucus will be stepping down as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. It’s unclear at this point who will take his place. Second, and potentially more important long-term, the Democratic governor of Montana will be able to choose another Democrat to serve out the remainder of Baucus’s term, giving that candidate (expected to be Lt. Gov. John Walsh) a leg up in the 2014 Senate election. As my colleague Zach wrote earlier this week, the pick of Baucus, with his strong background in finance, indicates that despite all the changes to U.S.-China relations, Obama’s primary concern is the economic dimension of the relationship.

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Speaking of U.S.-China economic ties, the annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade is meeting in Beijing beginning today. In his remarks at the opening of the meeting, Vice Premier Wang Yang argued for the importance of the 30-year old forum: “without the JCCT, any breakthrough or any resolution to the differences in bilateral trade would be impossible.” As a sign of a potential breakthrough in economic talks, China is preparing a revised bid for entrance into the Agreement on Government Procurement. Reuters reports that such a move “would potentially open $100 billion of government contracts to foreign competition every year.” China and the U.S. are also expected to continue discussing a potential bilateral investment treaty. To refresh your memory, check out Eve Cary’s piece for The Diplomat on the major hurdles such a treaty would have to clear.

Bolivian President Juan Evo Morales Ayma is in China this week. He saw President Xi Jinping yesterday, and met today with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Tomorrow, Morales is expected to witness the launch of a Bolivian satellite from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, according to Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying. The telecommunications satellite, known as “Tupac Katari”, was also built by and co-financed by China. According to CCTV, the satellite will expand “television, Internet, and mobile telephone services to rural Bolivians.”

China also provided the training for Bolivia’s first satellite operates, who graduated from Shenzhou Institute in late October of this year. Global Times reported that the class of 78 Bolivians was trained by China Great Wall Industry Corporation, also the company responsible for the satellite construction. CGWIC has also trained satellite operators from Nigeria, Pakistan, and Venezuela in an impressive example of China’s space diplomacy.

Finally, the Chinese government made more waves with its anti-corruption probe this week. South China Morning Post reports that vice police minister Li Dongsheng is under investigation, as is Guangzhou’s Vice-mayor, Cao Jianliao. Li’s case is suspected to be linked to the rumored investigation into former Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang.

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