China’s environmental degradation as a national security issue?

In China, Pollution Worsens Despite New Efforts,” by Andrew Jacobs, July 28, 2010

I saw this timely article in the New York Times and couldn’t help but note the coincidence of my current visit to Beijing.  Immediately upon arriving earlier this week, I just couldn’t believe the degree of smog and pollution in the city; it really is the worst I have ever seen and worse than I had imagined possible.  I can’t just say something like that and not show examples, so here are a few photos from our recent visit to Tiananmen Square.

If that doesn’t tell the tale, then these photos taken from the window of our accommodations should do the trick:

I figured that the anti-pollution efforts taken in advance of the 2008 Olympics here would have made a positive impact on the air quality in Beijing, but according to the article

Many of the most polluting industries were forced to relocate far from the capital before the 2008 Summer Olympics, but the wind often carries their emissions hundreds of miles back.

And it goes on to add

In Beijing, driving restrictions that removed a fifth of private cars from roads each weekday have been offset by 250,000 new cars that hit the city streets in the first four months of 2010.

Finally, I can’t help but wonder at what point does this degree of pollution become a national security liability?  I can’t imagine that the citizens of Beijing are happy with it, and at some point the positive returns that the economic development driving the pollution increases will have to be outweighed by the fact that it is no longer safe to go outdoors and young kids are coming down with emphysema.  Then what?  Will the Chinese then seek changes to address environmental concerns of a political nature that are unacceptable to the ruling authoritarian Communist Party of China?

Once more, here’s the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/world/asia/29china.html?src=twt&twt=nytimesglobal

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