Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US and China Talk Environment, Not Just Trade

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US and China Talk Environment, Not Just Trade

Article excerpt

Political tensions between the United States and China have diverted attention away from the progress being made on a vitally important but little-known Chinese-American dialogue. At a meeting last March in Beijing, Vice President Al Gore and Premier Li Peng strongly endorsed the China-US Forum on Environment and Development, which focuses on harmonizing environmental protection and economic development.

A major concern is the environmental implications of China's rapid modernization, and how best to spur US-China efforts to address China's domestic environmental problems and their global impact. Pollution, inefficient energy use, and ecological decline threaten to slow the pace of China's progress and undermine social and economic gains.

After the March meeting, news media coverage in the US focused mainly on disagreements that surfaced over the pace of Chinese greenhouse gas reductions. Press coverage in China was positive and extensive. Yet both sides sought to raise the level of dialogue above the plateau of hostile rhetoric. The vice president's visit highlighted the mutual advantages of addressing a critically important subject in new ways. Positive trends are seldom acknowledged outside China. The country is now dealing more effectively with pollution and resource conservation problems through pollution-control regulations, environmental planning, and economic incentives. The extent to which China, with its 1.2 billion people, copes successfully with the enormous environmental impacts of its economic growth bears directly on prospects for achieving global environmental sustainability. Mutual interests The Environment and Development Forum is addressing four key areas of mutual interest: energy efficiency, environmental policy development, science and technology, and opportunities for promoting US pollution-control technologies. There is a solid foundation for developing strategies in these and other areas to help sustain China's economic growth while maintaining essential environmental services and amenities. More than 30 agreements relating to the environment and sustainable development, involving 10 US agencies, have promoted bilateral cooperation between the US and China in diverse fields since the early 1980s. This is an especially opportune time to move forward with an expanded bilateral dialogue on strategies for enhancing China's environmental sustainability. As the country's market economy spurts forward, it is clear in China and abroad that economic growth, ecological integrity, and society's well-being are interrelated and can only be sustained with realistic, market-responsive environmental protection and resource-conservation policies. China must take steps to improve health and environmental protection in order to maintain its spectacular pace of economic growth. …

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