Con: Greedy-multinationals are responsible for shrouding China with layers of smog

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Wayne Madsen
January 12, 2008
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, “Is shunning products from China’s pollution-belching factories the most effective way Americans can reduce global warming?”

Economic boycotts of nations are inherently a bad idea, whether they are intended to force political, social or environmental policy changes.

It does not matter whether the targeted country is Cuba, North Korea, Iran or Sudan. Current calls for boycotting Chinese-made goods produced in polluting factories are unfeasible and nearly impossible to implement.

Multinational companies that have moved their factories to China and other nations in an effort to escape various domestic laws, including environmental legislation and regulations, should be required to ensure that their off-shore factories comply with international regulations on reducing carbon emissions.

It is the movement of industries from the United States and other industrialized countries that has caused China to become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The manufacturing bonanza in China has resulted in more coal-fired power plants coming on line in China, resulting in increased carbon-dioxide emissions.

A blanket-boycott of Chinese goods actually would hurt the Chinese people more than the pollution regulation-evading firms that have moved their manufacturing plants to China.

Much of China’s population still lives in rural areas, and they are not contributing to global greenhouse emissions. Few Chinese own cars as compared to the United States, where multi-car households are common. Omnibus sanctions against China simply are not feasible and would hurt the wrong people.

It makes much more sense for the U.S. government to encourage the establishment of “green industries” that could sell environmentally beneficial products and services to China to help that burgeoning industrial nation to cope with greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, California has led the way in “green technology” development, while the Bush administration continues to drag its feet on “green-tech.”

It must not be forgotten that China ratified the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases—but without targeted emission reduction mandates.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has spoken in favor of energy efficiency in China and creating an “environmental civilization.” But with a Bush administration that has refused to lead on global climate change and rejected the Kyoto treaty, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other emerging industrialized countries have not felt compelled to act decisively on curbing emissions.

Moreover, China has consistently pointed to the American rejection of Kyoto to defend its own decision not to comply with greenhouse emission limits.

And one cannot ignore the hidden hand of American and other multinational companies as being the principal architects behind China’s noncompliance. While some multinational companies claim that they are committed to emissions curbs at home, they are not as supportive when it comes to their factories in China.

There is also the specter that neoconservatives who have no concern about global climate change might use a green boycott of China for purely political purposes. Neoconservative geo-political planners have made no secret of their desire to curb the influence of China on the international scene.

Chinese scientists at the recent Bali summit on global climate change showed some willingness to discuss emissions caps. Chinese scientists are seeing how China’s belching of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is destroying many of China’s natural habitats, including important agricultural areas.

But with the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter—the United States—dragging its feet, China will not feel compelled to take action. Engaging China on the environment, not economic boycotts of Chinese products, is the only viable answer for dealing with the specter of global climate change.

Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer for the liberal Online Journal (http://www.onlinejournal.com). Readers can write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20045, or via e-mail at waynemadsen@dchotmail.com.

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