In Ecuador, Home Truths for China

In Ecuador, Home Truths for China

“We need to make contact with the Chinese media as urgently as possible.” I was on my university campus in New York when I received this call for help from an Ecuadorean NGO on March 5.

Some 4,000 kilometers south, in Quito, the Chinese embassy was already surrounded by protestors. Ecuador has a high level of environmental awareness and a tradition of popular opposition to mining. And this time, the target was a Chinese company.

That day, the Ecuadorean government had finally signed a contract with Chinese-owned mining firm EcuaCorriente, giving the green light to the country’s first big open-cast mine, the El Mirador copper project. The decision was a blow to civil-society groups, whose concerns about the ecological and social implications of the project had succeeded in staving off approval for a year. The El Mirador site is in a richly biodiverse area of southern Ecuador, which is also home to indigenous groups.

EcuaCorriente was originally Canadian-owned. But in 2010, Chinese joint venture CCRC-Tongguan Investment—a hook-up between China Railway Construction Corporation and Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group—purchased the parent company Corriente Resources, creating the largest Chinese-owned mining corporation in Ecuador.

This is the Chinese government’s “going out” policy in microcosm. Figures from the Chinese embassy in Ecuador show that, in 2010, more than twenty China-controlled firms were working on projects here, with investments amounting to US$2.2 billion (14 billion yuan). Ecuador is now one of the biggest recipients of Chinese investment in South America.

The media in China tend to be cheerleaders of Chinese companies who successfully establish themselves in Africa or South America. But often those same firms encounter a very different reaction on foreign turf. Has the truth about Chinese firms overseas been misunderstood, or distorted at home? In December 2011, and then again in March this year, I travelled to Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest to learn more.

“We only found out that the contract was going to be signed two days in advance,” explained an anti-mining campaigner from Ecuadorean NGO Acción Ecológica called Felicia. “This was clearly a political move. A nationwide day of mine protests was scheduled for March 8, and that would have made the deal harder to sign.”

She continued: “It was all such a rush; there was no time to think things through. All we could do was go to the Chinese embassy to hand over a petition.” Eight protestors stormed the secretary’s office, tied the door closed with silk scarves and demanded to see the ambassador.

Felicia calmly photographed the protest, even as the military police surrounded the campaigners and cut through their silk barricades. They weren’t worried about being arrested. They had attracted the attention they were after.

The protest was entirely non-violent. Acción Ecológica’s creed is radical but non-violent action. They use “eyeball tactics” to draw attention, in combination with the pursuit of their goals through legal channels. The group is not specifically opposed to Chinese people or the Chinese authorities – it is concerned with the mines and the government’s responsibilities.

Under Ecuadorean law, a mining company must provide an environmental impact assessment and the environmental authorities hold a public hearing before an environmental permit can be issued. Only once that permit is granted can the company and the government ink their deal.

The El Mirador project had not secured a permit by the time the deal was signed, while many concerns about the impact assessment were unresolved. But central government went ahead regardless. “The government says we are a few radical and ill-informed ecologists being manipulated by the rightists as part of their political struggle,” said Felicia, with a humorless laugh.

“But the mines bring lots of economic development. Don’t you want to see more schools and hospitals built?” I asked her.

“That’s just poor logic,” Felicia shot back. “Education, healthcare, these are basic government duties. Why should people have to drink water contaminated with heavy metals in order to get them?

“History shows that mining and oil make capitalists and politicians rich, while the locals only ever get the pollution, the poverty and the destruction left behind. And the benefits supposed to go to the locals never actually reach them.”

Ecuador was the first nation to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution, and Ecuadoreans have long been wary of big resource and energy developments. Felicia said this is the first mining project of its size in the Amazon, and without the necessary experience and legislation, the country could see a repeat of the errors made here by oil giant Chevron: the company and the government filled their coffers, but left the area around the project with the country’s highest cancer rates.

Ecuador, a country the size of a single Chinese province, is known for its rich plant and animal life. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also grants its indigenous groups the right to live in freedom, peace, and security. But, for decades, roads and oil pipelines have penetrated the rainforest, followed by an influx of people, the felling of trees and the building of oil towns.

I spoke to another NGO worker, Soledad, who works for an indigenous-rights lobby group in the Ecuadorean region of Coca. She said the oil industry has harmed the health of indigenous people here and impacted their way of life. The promise of profits is driving local groups to hunt large numbers of animals and negotiate land sales with the oil firms, she said. Now mining and hydropower have joined the party, and Chinese firms are becoming more prominent. The main target of anti-mining protests is EcuaCorriente.

But many Chinese firms operating in Ecuador are quick to defend their environmental and social records here. Hai Luo, part of the environment team at Chinese-controlled oil company Andes Petroleum, outlined the steps his company takes to reduce harm: “We invest a lot of money drilling inclined wells so as to reduce damage to the trees on the surface [inclined wells have just one entry point, from which various wells branch off, rather than multiple shafts]. To avoid pollution, we treat the water before re-injecting it underground. And our handling of air and solid waste are all in accordance with Ecuadorean environmental regulations. 

“We have satisfied every environmental regulation, and we’ve worked to create opportunities in the local economy and funded schools. We have fully met our social responsibilities.”

These words are echoed by the authorities. Both the deputy minister for the environment and the official in charge of the Yasuni region of eastern Ecuador – home to the country’s largest oil reserves –said that Chinese companies, in fact all oil companies operating in the country, meet those standards.

But Natalia, an official with rainforest and indigenous rights NGO the Pachamama Foundation disagreed: “What does meeting the environmental ministry’s standards mean? Those regulations just tell you what you can destroy and how you can destroy it!” She warned me not to be taken in by the so-called environmental regulations.

Her anger is reflected in the wider population. The first example of intense public opposition to a Chinese company in Ecuador took place in January this year, against oil drilling. Then in March, the signing of the Mirador deal prompted a more concerted public campaign against Chinese companies.

So what’s so bad about the Chinese firms?

“They’re very closed-off,” said a university professor called Lupita who I got talking to. All oil companies are secretive, she said, but Chinese companies especially so. “For one thing, they prevent outsiders from entering their oil fields. For another, they keep close tabs on their staff and don’t want outsiders to learn anything. They won’t talk to the public or NGOs, only to central government.”

I tried to explain the measures Chinese companies take to protect the environment – drilling inclined wells and recycling wastewater – but she dismissed it all: “How can you trust a company from a country which pollutes 70% of its own water sources? Especially when they won’t even talk to anyone.”

And how can the Ecuadoreans be expected to understand the Chinese, when the Chinese don’t even understand each other? A low-level manager with Sinopec said helplessly: “A lot of our subsidiaries are working here, but there’s very little communication between Chinese people from different provinces.”

Perhaps this is less a case of right and wrong than a clash between different values and cultures. “Projects like El Mirador would be much better off it they just talked a bit more with the locals,” said one insider at a Chinese company. “Even if it was just a meeting once a week.”


Huang Hongxiang is a journalist and student at Columbia University in New York. This article was first published in Southern Weekend. Read this article at chinadialogue.





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<p>Germany’s Energy transition (‘<em>Energiewende</em>’) has been much feted, but when it comes to energy and climate-change policy, China is the country to watch. Its burgeoning economy and voracious appetite for coal-fired power...



Local Officials in North China Quit Smoking to Fight Air Pollution

<p>If you are planning to quit smoking, here is another reason to do so—it can fight air pollution, at least according to local officials in China’s northern Hebei Province.</p><p>Officials in Cangzhou city, Hebei vowed to quit...



Organic Farming Takes Root in Nepal

<p>The fierce sunlight bakes the fields and the winter crop of potatoes is still under the soil. Fifty-five year old Nepalese farmer Badri Prasad Humagain sits in his front yard looking out at his small field. His&nbsp;village in the...



The Water Challenge Facing China’s Coal and Power Sector Is “Inescapable”

<p>It is an inescapable truth that China needs coal—and that coal needs water. The coal industry, from mining to power generation and coal-to-chemicals, accounts for one-sixth of China’s water withdrawals. This is not sustainable and in some...



Understanding China’s Domestic Agenda Can End U.N. Climate Gridlock

<p>Li Shuo of Greenpeace China has <a href="" target="_blank">recently argued on chinadialogue</a> that U.N. climate...



China’s GM Soybean Imports Stir Up Controversy

<p>Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, has been awash with criticisms of the Ministry of Agriculture’s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">...



Wuxi-Düsseldorf and the Challenge of Green City Partnerships

<p>At first glance, it isn’t an obvious pairing. Düsseldorf is the fashion and advertising capital of Germany. Wuxi is a fast-growing industrial city on China’s east coast, with probably more coal plants than catwalks. But a German...



China’s “NIMBY” Protests: Sign of Unequal Society

<p>NIMBY—or “not in my backyard”—protests happen when residents attempt to protect their neighborhoods from the negative impacts of public or industrial facilities. Since the 2007 “walking protests” against a <a href="http://www...



How China Can Kick-start Carbon Capture and Storage

<p>China’s estimated total carbon dioxide&nbsp;emissions reached&nbsp;<a href=";pid=44&amp;aid=8" target="_blank">25 percent of global...



Food Safety Scandals Bring Reality-Check to “Chinese Dream”

<p>In the wake of China’s recent food scandal, Chinese premier Li Keqiang has vowed to enforce the toughest food safety regulations.</p><p>“We need to crack down on practices that violate laws and regulations with a heavy fist, and...



Water-Trading Could Exacerbate Water Shortages in China

<p>Large-scale engineering projects and rigorous state control are hallmarks of the Chinese developmental model, and both have been apparent in the country’s approach to water management.</p><p>A US$62 billion project to divert...



China Tops Table for Disaster-Induced Displacement of People

<p>More than a third of all people forced from their homes by disasters such as floods, storms, and earthquakes in the past five years were in China, says a new report from the leading international body on displacement.</p><p>...



Singapore’s Growth Story Holds Lessons for Water-Scarce China

<p>When the tiny city-state of Singapore gained independence in 1965, its social, economic, political, and environmental constraints appeared so formidable that many of those looking in from outside predicted a future of dismal dimensions...



Time to End Secrecy Over Chinese Overseas Fishing

<p>It is well-known that overseas fishing fleets are more cavalier in terms of respect for laws and regulations than their domestic counterparts. There are innumerable examples from all over the world of fishing with gears that are not part of...



Why Has Water-Rich Yunnan Become A Drought Hotspot?

<p>Yunnan’s drought continues. During China’s annual parliamentary session in March, the deputy party secretary of the southwest Chinese province, Qiu He, blamed spring floodwaters that flow through Yunnan and on into other countries for the...



Poor Rural Residents in China Seen as Easy Target for Environmental Lawsuits

<p>China today boasts a collection of ninety-five environmental courts, all of which were set up over the past six years. It is a trend that promises to re-shape Chinese environmental law.</p><p>But simply trumpeting this...



Why It’s Time to End China-Bashing on the Environment

<p>The major impact that international summits and treaties have had on China’s environmental governance is often overlooked. Environmental protection first emerged as an issue in China in 1972, after the country dispatched a delegation to the...



Morococha: The Peruvian Town the Chinese Relocated

<p>The headlines have been stark: a Chinese mining company moves an entire Peruvian town of 5,000 people five miles down the road to make way for its new mine.</p><p>It sounds like another story about an extractive corporation...



Writing Yunnan a Rubber Check

Chris Horton
<p>Our van stopped at a scenic vista on the contour road where verdant mountains undulated southward toward China’s border with Laos. Stepping out to take some photos, I was overcome by an acrid, unpleasant odor. I asked my local travel...



Chinese Nuclear Disaster “Highly Probable” by 2030

<p>Some members of the nuclear power industry rely too much on theoretical calculations, when only experience can provide real accuracy.</p><p>The lifetime of nuclear reactors is calculated in “reactor-years.” One reactor-year...



Public Fury After Chinese Environment Minister Keeps Job

<p>In his eight years as China’s environmental protection minister, Zhou Shengxian has failed to keep almost a single promise. I say “almost”: he has kept his word at least when it comes to his own career—as promised, he has not quit.</p...



Baby Milk Restrictions Cause Outrage in Mainland China

<p>The Hong Kong government’s recent listing of baby formula as a “reserved commodity” and a 1.8kg per person per day export limit has sparked widespread criticism—as well as becoming a hot topic at China’s annual session of parliament [the...



Chinese Fracking Plans Prompt “Water-Grabbing” Fears

<p>China has become one of Asia’s leaders in expanding unconventional shale-gas extraction in the name of energy self-sufficiency and national autonomy. Experiences of “fracking” worldwide, however, suggest the costs to China of joining this...



Environmentalists Unconvinced by Wen Jiabao’s Green Words

<p>China’s outgoing premier Wen Jiabao vowed that the government would solve the country’s ever-worsening pollution in his final work report yesterday as he opened the annual session of parliament.</p><p>But coming amid rising...



China Criticized over Tiger Farms and Illegal Ivory

<p>China is under pressure to regulate its rampant trade in illegal ivory and tiger parts ahead of the <a href="" target="_blank">Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)...



Drought and Earthquakes Pose “Enormous Risk” to China’s Nuclear Plans

<p>When the Fukushima nuclear disaster struck, China was building new nuclear power capacity at a rate unprecedented in world history: 40 percent of all reactors planned or under construction were in China. Targets for installed nuclear...



Could Smartphones Help Clear China’s Congested Roads?

<p>The extraordinary growth of China’s cities is well-known. Today, 160 Chinese metropolises have over one million inhabitants and more than half the population lives in urban areas, which are growing at two to three times the rate of Western...



Air Quality in China: A Snapshot

<p>Nearly five weeks ago, Beijing experienced its worst day of air quality on record: Levels of PM2.5—small particulates that can cause lung, cardiovascular, and respiratory disease—soared to more than thirty times the level considered safe by...



China’s Disappointing Absence from U.N. Water Summit

<p>After recent heated debate over China’s mega-dam plans, any visitor to the launch on February 11 of the U.N.’s much-vaunted&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">...



A Progress Report on U.S.-China Energy & Climate Change Cooperation

Leah Thompson
<p>In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama committed to confronting climate change, stating, “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must...



Nuclear Fusion: An Answer to China’s Energy Problems?

<p>The global nuclear sector has been through something of an apocalyptic patch since <a href="" target="_blank">the disaster at Fukushima</a>—from...



Xi Jinping Must Tackle Corruption and Boost Innovation in Food Sector

<p>In January 2013, Australia’s biggest supermarket chain Woolworths began restricting sales of baby formula to four tins per customer after a massive increase in demand stripped shelves bare of popular brands such as Karicare.</p><p...



Climate Change, Not Grazing, Destroying the Tibetan Plateau

<p>Sanjiangyuan—which literally translates as the “three river source area”—feeds China’s mightiest rivers. The 300,000-square kilometer region, high on western China’s Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, provides a quarter of the Yangtze’s water, almost...



U.S. Cities Suffer Impact of Downwind Chinese Air Pollution

<p>Around 9,000 feet up, on a remote mountaintop in the state of Oregon, a group of researchers are on the lookout. It is not planes or wildlife they are tracking but pollution clouds.</p><p>The monitoring site is run by Dan Jaffe...



We’re Winning the Air Pollution Data Battle—So What Next?

<p>Last year, China made a breakthrough in the publication of air quality data, as more than sixty cities started to monitor and publish levels of the dangerous air pollutant PM2.5. But the figures themselves were depressing. With PM2.5—fine...



Officials Failing to Stop Textile Factories Dumping Waste in Qiantong River

<p>The Qiantang River is the most important river in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, one of the country’s most developed regions. On its banks, textiles plants work to supply fashion labels around the world. But they are polluting the...



Taxi Drivers in China Have Highest PM2.5 Air Pollutant Exposure

<p>A study conducted by Greenpeace has revealed that taxi drivers suffer the greatest levels of exposure to PM2.5 air pollution: three times that of the average person, and five times the world standard.</p><p>The study, carried...



Car-Driving Officials in China Urged to Get on a Bus

<p>China’s new leadership has asked government officials to travel simply and, in normal circumstances, not to close roads to ease their journeys. In a recent visit to the Qianhai area of Shenzhen, south China, incoming president Xi Jinping...



China’s New “Middle Class” Environmental Protests

<p>China’s urban residents (or the new “middle class”) protest on the streets only very rarely. Discontent is expressed almost exclusively online, via angry typing. But this has changed over the last five years—protests have come offline and...



China’s Environment in 2012

<p>From mass protests to trade wars, shale-gas drilling to hazardous cosmetics, it’s been a topsy turvy twelve months for China’s environment. Here’s a quick refresher of the year that was.</p><h2>January</h2><p>The...



Environmentalist Liu Futang Found Guilty of “Illegal Business Activities”

<p>Well-known Chinese environmentalist Liu Futang has been convicted of carrying out “illegal business activities,” given a three-year suspended prison sentence, and fined 17,000 yuan.</p><p>Liu Futang, <a href="http://www...



Russia’s Siberian Dams Power “Electric Boilers” in Beijing

<p>The underdeveloped, sparsely populated Eastern Siberia region that shares a 4,000-kilometer border with China has vast resources to offer its heavily populated and fast-developing neighbor. Hydroelectricity is key among them.</p><p...



Millions Await News of Test-tube Panda Taotao’s “Return” to the Wild

<p>On October 11, at the age of two years and two months, giant panda Taotao went home.</p><p>This was China’s second attempt to introduce a giant panda born through artificial insemination into the wild. Unlike last time, however...



An Insight into the Green Vocabulary of the Chinese Communist Party

<p>After years of neglect, the environment is gradually gaining more attention from China’s leaders. The most noticeable manifestation of this is in their vocabulary.</p><p>Six months ago, Hu Jintao, speaking at the opening of a...



China’s Low-Carbon Zones Lack Motivation, Guidance, and Ideas

<p>None of China’s so-called low-carbon industrial zones currently live up to the name. That’s the conclusion to draw from the work of the U.S. Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), which this year released a <a href="http://www...



Clampdown on Gold Dredging in China Sees Switch to Mongolia and Russia

<p>The Heilongjiang basin, in northeast China, was attracting gold prospectors as early as the late Qing dynasty, which collapsed in 1912. Panning for gold is damaging for rivers and wetlands, but at the time the region was sparsely populated...



Overfishing Pushes 80% of Chinese Fishermen Towards Bankruptcy

<p>In mid-September, the fishing season got under way as usual in Ningbo, on China’s east coast, after the three-month season when fishing is forbidden. Over 2,000 steel-hulled boats headed out to sea. But, on board, there was little cause for...



Chinese Boycott Airline China Southern After Mysterious Death of Dog

<p>On the morning of October 10, a high-profile lawsuit against China Southern, one of China’s “big three” airlines, opened at Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. The plaintiffs? Zhao Nan and Chen Lei, a couple from Tianjin, north China, who...



China’s New Leaders Must Respect Environmental Rights

<p>China has achieved remarkable economic successes over the last three decades. For years, it has led the world in GDP growth. But widespread industrialization and urbanization, along with growth based on increased use of resources, mean the...



Top Clothing Brands Linked to Water Pollution Scandal in China

<p>China is the major hub of the international textile industry, exporting US$200 billion worth of textile and apparel products in 2010—accounting for 34 percent of global exports.</p><p>It’s provided cheap T-shirts and other...



Decline of Bees Forces China’s Apple Farmers to Pollinate by Hand

<p>In the last fifty years, the global human population has nearly doubled, while the average calories consumed per person has increased by about 30 percent.</p><p>To cope with the ever growing demand for food, more land has been...



Desertification in Tibet’s Wetlands Threatens the Yellow River

<p>The “kidneys” of the Tibetan plateau are failing.</p><p>The Zoige Wetland National Nature Reserve, which sits on the northeastern fringe of western China’s Qinghai-Tibet plateau, contains the largest alpine peat wetlands in the...



Sinking Shanghai “Not Prepared to Admit” Climate Change Threat

<p>It’s been a brutal summer for much of urban China. From the <a href="" target="_blank">once-in-sixty-years storm</a> that lashed Beijing in July, killing...



Chinese Fear Price Hikes After Electricity Reforms

<p>This summer, Chinese people have been thinking twice before turning on their air conditioners.</p><p>In July, tiered electricity pricing came into effect across China, except in the far western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang...



Milk Price War Puts Squeeze on China’s Dairy Farmers

<p>China’s dairy industry has been in a precarious state since 2008, the year of the Sanlu milk-powder scandal, when babies across the country were poisoned by melamine-tainted infant formula. This incident revealed to the world the flaws in...



China’s South-North Water Transfer is “Irrational”

<p><em>Ruth Matthews, executive director of the Water Footprint Network, tells Tom Levitt how food has come to dominate our water use and why China may need to re-think its South-North water transfer project.</em></p><p...



Tibetans Fight Tourism on Holy Lakes

<p>Mining, dam construction, sand excavation, poaching, and grassland degradation are seriously damaging the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the world’s most fragile ecosystem. But without a second thought, the tourism industry has joined their ranks...



Can New Trials Boost Chinese Wind?

<p>For the last half year, the National Energy Administration (NEA) has been making its interest in Inner Mongolia’s western regions crystal clear. This part of north China, rich in wind-power potential, has hosted group after group of energy...



Official Shrugs Off Public Food “Panic”

<p><em>Wang Guowei heads up the policy and legislation department at the State Council Food Safety Commission. He spoke to Xu Nan and Zhou Wei about the nature of China’s food safety problems and the ongoing policy response.</em>...



Data Gaps Hobble Carbon Trading

<p>Late last October, China’s top economic planning body—the National Development and Reform Commission—instructed the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen, plus Hubei and Guangdong provinces, to get ready to run...



Doomed Toilet Scheme Was “Valuable Experience”

<p>For a large share of the 750 million urban people worldwide who lack adequate sanitation, flush toilets connected to municipal sewers are not a viable option due to poverty, water shortages, groundwater contamination risks, and other issues...



Eco-toilet Scheme Ends in Failure

<p>The large banner at the front gate of what used to be called Daxing Ecological Community has been changed to read “Civilized City.” A showroom by the nearby supermarket is locked up and empty while a little further away, near a scenic lake...



Protests Show Chinese Kids’ Fears

<p>The decision to cancel the metal refinery project in Shifang last month after protesters clashed with the police has been widely reported in the Chinese and global media. This is not the first time a project has been shelved due to public...



Guangzhou’s Rubbish Charge Struggle

<p>Like many of China’s rapidly growing cities, Guangzhou is under siege from landfill. The southern city produces about 18,000 tons of household waste every day, 14,000 tons of which needs to be disposed of after sorting and recycling. That...



China’s Overseas Food Footprint

<p>For the last three decades, China’s factories have turned out goods for export markets, while Chinese citizens have paid the environmental price of industrialization in the pollution of their air and water and in the contamination of their...



Shifang: A Crisis of Local Rule

<p>China has been engrossed in the mass protests in Shifang, Sichuan province, where on the morning of July 2, locals and police clashed during demonstrations against a planned molybdenum and copper refinery. The next day, the government <a...



Why Big Dams Don’t Work

<p>The record of Africa’s large dams is one of widespread environmental destruction to the continent’s major river systems, upon which millions of people depend for their livelihoods; forcible resettlement and human rights abuses; corruption...



Restoring Eco-balance

<p>In the late 1970s, China was swept by a wave of economic growth, and with it a wholesale attack on nature. Grain was planted on grasslands and profits extracted from rivers. Land was reclaimed from lakes and seas and forests were felled for...



Dirty Truth about China’s Incinerators

<p>Xie Yong could be called a pioneer. He is one of very few to date to sue a Chinese government agency over its unlawful refusal of requested data. His crusade for change has little to do with civic altruism, however. Xie’s struggle is...



The Double Life of Dali Lake

<p>Every spring, migratory birds start arriving at Dali Lake in Inner Mongolia just as the fish-breeding season gets under way. This has been the time—at least until recently—when herders living around the lake have heard the sounds of...



Rio and China’s Global Future

<p>We have a common predicament, and solving it requires humanity to work together. But state actors are, to a large degree, controlled by the confrontational logic of international politics. The dualities and contradictions common in...



The Diplomacy of Air Pollution

<p>On June 5, World Environment Day,&nbsp;China’s environment ministry published its annual “<a href="" target="_blank">state of the environment</a>”...



What’s Coming Out of China’s Taps

<p>China’s urbanites use a lot of water. Every day, more than 4,000 water-treatment plants supply 60 million tons of water to 400 million people living in Chinese cities. Despite the impressive figures, the water industry is grappling with...



Hot Air?

Michael Zhao
<p>It has been a busy season for U.S. diplomatic activity in China. Given the tensions aroused by U.S. involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal and the flight of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, perhaps it should come as no surprise that even...



A Fallacy of Steel and Glass

<p>Among its many environmental challenges, China faces an enormous increase in energy consumption by buildings over the coming decades. Bricks and mortar already account for 25% of China’s total primary energy consumption, but are currently...



We’re All Farmers Now

<p>At a monthly “friends of farming” dinner held by <a href="" target="_blank">Green Heartland</a>, an NGO based in Chengdu, west China, Chen Xia quietly reads an ode to the land against...



Unplugging from China

<p>Apparent preparations by US energy giant AES Corporation to withdraw from China have raised eyebrows lately. Earlier this year, it emerged that the firm—one of the world’s biggest independent power generators—had engaged an investment bank...



Europe Can Do Better

<p>Since 2005, the European Union and China have sought to develop dialogue and cooperation in the area of climate-change policy. This has taken place primarily within the framework of the EU-China Partnership on Climate Change, agreed at the...



Keeping an Eye on China’s Bankers

<p>Last August, a major pollution story broke in China: 5,000 tonnes of toxic chromium tailings <a href="" target="_blank">had been dumped</a> near a...



As China Grows Rich, Rainforests Fall

Craig Simons
<p>An incredible forest lies on its side in this gritty industrial town in southeastern China. On the southern bank of the Yangtze River nine-foot-diameter kevazingo trees from Gabon rub against Cambodian rosewoods and Indonesian teaks. Nearby...



Chinese Demand Stokes U.S. Coal Battle

Craig Simons
<p>TRINIDAD, Colorado—When the New Elk mine reopened amid windblown prairies last winter, it attracted little attention. But the mine—a long shaft boring through some of the world’s most valuable coal—strikes at the heart of a growing debate...



China’s Rising Consumer Class Sparks Climate Change Fears

Craig Simons
<p>TUOJIA VILLAGE, China—When you think about China’s growing greenhouse gas emissions, you probably don’t think of people like Zhang Chao or his father Zhang Dejun. Zhang Chao, a thirty-five-year-old middle school teacher living in small city...



China’s Rise Creates Clouds of U.S. Pollution

Craig Simons
<p>At more than 9,000 feet along the crest of Oregon’s Cascade mountain range, the top of this snow-covered peak normally enjoys some of America’s cleanest air. So when sensitive scientific instruments picked up ozone—the chief component of...



North Vietnam and China: Reflections on a Visit

Martin Bernal
<p>Early this year I went to Hanoi by way of China. After spending a week in Peking I went to North Vietnam for just over a month and then returned to China, where I stayed in Changsha and Canton for two weeks. Later I spent three and a half...