Chinese economic growth to stress quality
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images Yesterday was a good day for the NIMBYs in Shanghai as Mayor Han Zheng announced that a controversial maglev train is not on the list of projects to begin construction in 2008. Protests in January reflected significant public opposition to the plan. Xinhua reported that the project had not passed evaluation and ...
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday was a good day for the NIMBYs in Shanghai as Mayor Han Zheng announced that a controversial maglev train is not on the list of projects to begin construction in 2008. Protests in January reflected significant public opposition to the plan. Xinhua reported that the project had not passed evaluation and that there is still feedback pending from the public and “national experts.” The train is off the table until at least next year.
In another case of protest yielding results, construction of a Xiamen chemical factory has been blocked due to public concern. Mayor Liu Cigui said:
Faced with the choice of becoming a chemical industry base or a coastal scenic city, we think we should stick to the latter.”
So, are we seeing hints of local democracy in China? Liu’s move could be seen as part of a growing trend to consider the public’s views on big construction decisions. Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, has said that major projects will involve public input in the future. And beginning in May, new transparency laws will go into effect essentially mandating government release of environmental information within 15 days of a public inquiry. To what effect that mandate will be carried out remains to be seen, but the tone and direction of such a change is inarguably positive.
This all reflects a new emphasis in China on the quality of economic development. China is now aiming for 8 percent GDP growth in 2008 — as opposed to the double-digit targets of recent years. Wang Xiaoguang, a Beijing-based economist, interpreted the change this way:
This is also a clear message to local governments: that they should focus their attention on the quality, rather than pace, of development.”
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