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The Greening of China

Two countries – the United States and China – remain aloof from global efforts to create a new post-Kyoto framework on climate change. Fifty years ago, the rest of the world might have carried on with remedying the problem of conventional and greenhouse gas emissions and let China and the US stew in their own waste. But the world is now so interdependent that what happens in one place affects all others.

For example, visitors and residents alike have long thought of Hong Kong as a beautiful city clinging to the South China coast. But, for at least five years, Hong Kong’s citizens have found themselves starting to cough and wheeze from the city’s increasingly degraded air. Corporate employers are even complaining about not being able to attract overseas talent.

Pollution from Hong Kong’s own power generation plants, growing number of vehicles, and burgeoning shipping industry can certainly be reduced. But the lion’s share of this industrial haze – like the growing pollution of its coastal waters – is a direct result of the rapid industrialization of the Pearl River Delta across the border in China’s Guangdong Province. China is exporting not only more and more goods, but also its environmental degradation.

The inescapable truth is that the futures of Hong Kong and China are integrally linked. There are roughly 58,000 factories in the Pearl River Delta with Hong Kong connections, and together they employ more than 10 million workers. Guangdong accounts for about 30% of China’s total foreign trade, while Hong Kong is China’s international finance center.