In an attempt to reach more voices, the NY Times sought out Chinese readers in its Chinese language edition last fall, and translated their views on Paris climate summit.
Here are some samples:
The responses included criticism of what they called government failure in curbing choking smog in Chinese cities and claims that China was being unfairly targeted on a global stage. Some looked at energy use and its consequences while others expressed optimism that with good governance, a community could clean up its mess.
Here is a selection of the responses. They have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dependence on Fossil Fuels
I blame the three Chinese oil giants over their crude oil processing standard. And China’s infrastructure is frustratingly inadequate. There would be fewer cars and the air quality would improve if there were better public transportation. It is a complicated chain effect, and the underlying problem is bad governance.
— Li Muzi
The main issue is fuel structure. China is using too big a percentage of fossil fuels. A secondary issue is its low standard in refining its fossil fuels.
— Ran Cheng, Chengdu, China
People always say, let’s restrict gas-burning vehicles and instead encourage electric cars. But bringing cars like Tesla into China won’t make a difference. They run on electricity and not on fossil fuels, but most of the electricity comes from coal-fired power plants. So the source of our problems is still there.
— Seamus Wu
Water Is Not Better
China pushes hydro power as clean energy. But hydro power brings proven damage to the ecosystem. Maybe it means less carbon emission, but it has some disastrous effects, too.
— Forest Deng
A China Problem?
Just look at Beijing now, you will find how hypocritical China is.
— Jammy Hsieh, Taipei, Taiwan
Carbon emission is not any single country’s problem. You can’t just blame China. Other countries like the U.S. and the U.K. are just as bad emitters as China. Blaming China alone is unfair.
— Kl Soon, Malacca, Malaysia
You Americans and Europeans went through the same: economic growth first and environmental cleanup later. China is on the same road as you were! If this is not a carefully dressed innuendo, then what is it? It is like saying when you pollute, it is legal, but when others do it, it is not! Cheap shot!
— Jessy Gu, Shanghai
China will do the world a big favor if it can clean up its own environment. Let’s not wish for any more than that.
— Chen Lianhao, Xinyang, Henan, China
To me, smog is just a visual problem for now. China will be doomed if it ever becomes more than that.
— Xu Ning, Zhengzhou, Henan, China
There Is Still Hope
People used to throw trash everywhere outside my apartment building. Then the community built a recycling station and ran educational campaigns about sorting your garbage before taking it out. Now our community is much better. The people are nicer.
It takes the government and NGOs working together to improve neighborhood service and public education.
— Wang Zechen
There is nothing wrong with saving fuels and cutting emissions without hurting the economy and people’s lives. It’s for an environment we all share.
— Zhang Yunlong, Dezhou, Shandong, China
A Dystopian Beijing
I published a sci-fi story that did not feel so sci-fi called “The Smog Society” in 2006. The story is set in a heavily polluted Beijing in the future, where everybody wears a mask when they go outdoors. The protagonist, Lao Sun, is a retiree and a member of the Smog Society, a nongovernmental organization that runs independent monitoring of the air quality for real, uncensored data.
Nine years later, everything has become our everyday reality. Beijing has become the smog capital, with its air pollution as bad as that of London on Dec. 5, 1952. The official air-quality reports are not reliable. The Chinese have learned to make fun of it and of themselves, posting surreal photos on social media and writing smog jokes. They research on different brands of masks and air filters. My friends, middle-class elites with good educations and handsome incomes, are all worried about their children. When the government lifted the ban on a second child and encouraged couples to have children, one mom said, “The weather is depressing. What is the point of choosing kindergartens, or buying a house close to a good school? What is the point of choosing between a public school and an international one? It’s all pointless. I feel guilty and anxious seeing my kid grow up in this environment.”
I think China has moved past the time when people could be reduced to statistical numbers and living equaled surviving. Perhaps policy makers should change the way they think accordingly as they handle pollution and other issues where people’s lives are at stake.
— Stanley Chan, 34, Beijing, tech start-up manager and science-fiction writer