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怎样解决中国的污染问题?

Adam Lashinsky 2013年11月05日

中国的空气质量是否已经构成了一场危机?解决这个问题需要采取什么行动?习近平为首的新一届领导班子会采取什么行动?

    污染问题已经成为中国公众关注的焦点之一。

    时隔二十年之后,笔者在今年夏天再次来到中国。所有人都在讨论中国发生的变化,事实也确实如此。笔者上一次来北京的时候,在市中心的大街上还可以看到骡子拉的车,如今这种交通工具在市中心几乎已经销声匿迹。

    但有一点一直没有变化,那就是空气污染。实际上,北京的空气质量正变得越来越糟糕。

    北京的空气质量到底有多糟糕?在之前一期《财富》杂志(Fortune)上,杂志编辑苏安迪发表了一篇关于中国空气污染问题的卷首文章——《中国眼前的危机》(A China crisis that's here)。这篇文章甚至认为,中国污浊的空气已经成为新一任国家领导人习近平近期急需解决的一次政治危机。【文章还讽刺了中国官方宣传机构通过批评苹果(Apple)和星巴克(Starbucks)等美国著名公司来转移民众注意力的做法。】

    我承认这确实是习近平所面临的一次危机。中国人民或许能够容忍许多不公平的待遇,但一旦遇到每天都要面对的生活质量问题,他们很难再抑制自己的怒火。事实上,今年六月,笔者前往北京参加《财富》全球论坛时,曾就空气污染问题询问过人们的意见。中国如何解决污染问题?什么时候才能解决?

    大家或许能够猜得到,这些问题不会有简单的答案。实际上,解决这个问题将引发其他的难题。迅速解决污染问题的唯一办法是放缓产业经济发展速度,而这将造成大规模失业,进而引发民众的不安——苏安迪也曾提到过污染会导致这个问题的出现。

    当然,也有人持不同意见。纽约全球政治风险咨询公司欧亚集团(Eurasia Group)的负责人伊安•布莱默说:“中国不需要解决所有地方的污染问题。至少在近期,他们需要做的是解决最重要城市的问题。越来越多的人从农村涌入这些大城市,而且城市里也有大量媒体。”布莱默认为,空气污染问题只是公关失误,而不是一次全国性的危机。他认为,中国许多地方的生活质量非常低,许多外派人员和驻华记者都难以接受的状况普通中国人都已经习以为常。他说:“有评论说在这种污染环境下,人们不敢带孩子出门,其实这种说法有些夸大,因为他们只是负担不起带孩子外出的开销。”     

    I visited China for the first time in nearly 20 years this past summer. Everyone talks about how much has changed, and it's true. There were mule-drawn carriages in the streets of central Beijing the last time I was there. Today, not so much.

    What hasn't changed is the air pollution. In fact, it has gotten worse.

    How much worse? Fortune Magazine Editor Andy Serwer devoted his front-of-the-book essayto the Chinese air-pollution problem in the new issue of the magazine. His article, "A China crisis that's here," goes so far as to argue that the dirty air over China is a near-term political crisis for the country's new president Xi Jinping. (He includes some controversial digs at a Chinese government propaganda machine that's taking after U.S. icons like Apple and Starbucks in order to distract its own people.)

    I agree that Xi faces a crisis over this. Chinese people are willing to put up with a lot, but they are hopping mad about the quality-of-life issue that is literally in their face every day. In fact, it's the one topic about which I asked everybody I met in June, when I traveled there for the Fortune Global Forum. How can the Chinese fix the problem and when will they? I asked.

    As you might have guessed, there isn't a simple answer. Indeed, tackling the question provokes a conundrum. The only certain way to fix the pollution quickly is to slow down the industrial economy, which would cause massive unemployment, which would cause civil unrest -- exactly the problem Serwer flags regarding the pollution.

    Not everyone sees it that way. "You don't need to fix it everywhere," says Ian Bremmer, who runs the global political-risk consulting firm Eurasia Group from New York. "What they really need to do, at least in the near term, is to address the problem in the most important cities, where people are coming in from out of the country and where there is a lot of media." To Bremmer, the air-pollution problem is a PR screw-up more than a national crisis. He argues that the quality of life is so low in much of China that what seems unacceptable to expatriates and visiting journalists simply isn't top-of-mind to the average Chinese citizen. "The comment that people wouldn't take their kids out in this pollution is overblown because they can't afford to take their kids out anyway," he says.

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