Beijing must change ap­proach to ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges

New Straits Times - - Lima'17 -

EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL pol­lu­tion now poses a ma­jor non-tra­di­tional se­cu­rity (NTS) chal­lenge to the Chi­nese so­ci­ety, and smog is its most vis­i­ble el­e­ment.

In a gov­ern­ment re­port to the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress ear­lier this month, Chi­nese pre­mier Li Ke­qiang reaf­firmed the gov­ern­ment’s res­o­lu­tion and com­mit­ment to ad­dress air pol­lu­tion as well as other en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

Re­peated em­pha­sis on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues by the lead­er­ship re­flects the recog­ni­tion of the ur­gency of this prob­lem to China.

De­spite the strength­ened ef­forts to curb pol­lu­tion, how­ever, in­ci­dents of heavy pol­lu­tion still re­cur. In De­cem­ber 2016 alone, over 20 ci­ties in north­ern China were af­fected by three waves of se­vere smoggy days, with the first-ever red alert of heavy air pol­lu­tion is­sued.

The per­sis­tence of heavy smog calls for a dras­tic change in ap­proach to ad­dress the en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges.

Beijing be­gan to recog­nise the im­por­tance of NTS is­sues in the late 1990s when wit­ness­ing the se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions of the Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 1997 for South­east Asian coun­tries. This un­der­stand­ing was re­in­forced by a string of non-mil­i­tary emer­gen­cies, like the se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome epi­demic in 2003 and the Wenchuan earth­quake in 2008.

The lead­er­ship now con­ceives na­tional se­cu­rity as be­yond the tra­di­tional mil­i­tary di­men­sion, but in­cludes agen­das like eco­nomic se­cu­rity, re­source se­cu­rity and eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity.

This trend is re­flected in the in­cor­po­ra­tion of the eco­log­i­cal di­men­sion into the strat­egy of na­tional de­vel­op­ment un­veiled in 2012, which em­pha­sises bal­anced and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

The el­e­va­tion of NTS is­sues in China’s na­tional strat­egy in­di­cates


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