MFG 2.0

A Gold Medal In Economy-Crippling For China

No, I'm not complaining about Chinese currency manipulation and its crippling effect on U.S. manufacturing (this time).

In an attempt to fast-track environmental progress ahead of this summer's Olympic Games, the Chinese government is taking fairly drastic steps in both the industrial and consumer economies -- steps that are designed to "clear the air" and quell the discomfort being expressed by athletes who will be breathing "Beijing brown" this summer.

(Bell Tower, view from Drum Tower, Beijing, China, May 2008)

Despite this aim, China's capital city is still booming, adding hundreds of cars to the road per day and creating a situation that the IHT's Jim Yardley describes as "an athlete trying to get into shape by walking on a treadmill yet eating double cheeseburgers at the same time."

Hence, the green crash course -- to use Yardley's metaphor, Beijing is at the environmental improvement version of "fat camp" right now.

And the schedule is a rigorous one, with steps ranging from the near-unimaginable here (shutting down of entire industries, regions) and (restrictions on driving like the banning of certain types of vehicles) to the fairly petty (no car repairing or painting) to the symbolic (banning plastic bags) to about thirty others I've read about in the last month or two (including the establishment of a "weather modification office" responsible for making it rain to clean the air). The Chinese government policy, in fact, seems like less a holistic environmental strategy than a scattershot collection of dike-thumbing tactics, many of dubious efficacy, and it remains to be seen whether or not they will work.

I hope they do, as I want the Olympics to go well, for what it's worth. More than that, I hope that China doesn't immediately revert to its old, dirty ways as soon as the closing ceremony parade disbands, and the tourists leave town again.

TAGS: Innovation
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