sclayton May 23rd, 2009
Our translator, Lin Lang, who introduced us to this noodle heaven (see the post for tomorrow)
The EPA Meeting
This was our last serious work as we met with several officials from the National Environmental Protection Agency to discuss environmental problems in China and how they are being addressed. We concluded that the U.S. has a log it could learn from China. The 2008 Olympics served as a catalyst to focus on improving environmental conditions in Beijing, but progress has been maintained. Even our translator had commented on the drive from the airport that he noticed the skies were clearer than they used to be, and he could see further. Some of the things that have been done include:
– reducing the use of coal in favor of natural gas
– encouraging people to stop using old, dirty cars
– laws restricting driving in downtown Beijing
– stricter regulations for water quality and auto emissions
– using new techniques for managing water pollution
– building new public transportation (the subway has vastly expanded)
Government prioritization of the environment can be seen in the increased status of the NEPA, which went from an office to an agency to a ministry in recent years. Despite new concerns over the economy and swine flu, we were told that environmental considerations are always paramount.
Is this all top-down? The bureau chief mentioned individual initiatives and solicitation of public opinion via the internet. The public sees the EPA as the government agency that is most helpful to them.
What lessons do they have for the U.S.? This question elicited some smiles, then the tactful response: “I don’t know if this is true; I have only read it in books. But in China it is considered a virtue to reduce energy and resource use. In America …. you all like your long hot showers!”
Beijing – A “Showplace” City
The last photo in this group is of the “Egg”, Paul Andreu’s famous new National Grand Theatre. Yes, we enjoyed an opera performance there — all in the name of research. Finding a taxi afterwards was the most difficult thing we’ve done on this trip.
A Visit with a Local (in a hutong village)
Our translator kindly took us to see his 93-year-old grandmother, who agreed to let us take numerous pictures. We asked her what changes in Beijing she noticed most over the past 50 years and she said she could not compare the cities.