中国治理污染新举措或加剧经济增速放缓

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2017年10月24日 作者:纽约时报中文网(By KEITH BRADSHER)

上海黄浦江上,在燃煤电厂附近捕鱼的人。
上海黄浦江上,在燃煤电厂附近捕鱼的人。Fishing with a net near a coal-fired power station on the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

北京——中国在过去的40年里实现了惊人的经济增长,这种增长的代价是雾霾、散发恶臭的小河,以及满湖的垂死之鱼。

如今,中国正在进行迄今为止范围最广的努力之一,以严厉打击制造污染的企业,这种努力对经济和世界市场的影响已经可以感受到。

中国各地的城市都在加紧向钢铁厂、燃煤电厂和其他企业派出检查人员,下令违规者清理他们的作业,否则将面临被关闭的危险。环保部门已在8月21日下令包括许多主要钢铁生产中心在内的中国北方20多个城市,在今年冬季将空气污染减少15%。

中国环境保护部部长李干杰周一在共产党代表大会新闻中心举办的记者会上说,还将采取更严厉的措施。党代会是每五年一次的重大活动,中共在大会上挑选出新的领导层来解决国内的问题。

两年前开始的环保运动,在最近几个月里加快了速度,运动范围如此之广,以至于它正在开始影响市场。一些经济学家已做出警告说,今年冬季,中国的整体经济可能出现小幅放缓。

周一,官员们试图向中国公众和企业保证,污染整治行动将有助于让全国变得更干净,但不会给经济增长带来损害。

“你要说对企业的影响一点都没有,那是不可能的,”李干杰说。“但是从长远看、从宏观上看,是没有影响的。”

在关于中国经济增长代价的更广泛的讨论中,环境污染是一个重要部分。为了给年轻人和搬入城市的农村居民提供良好的就业机会,中国官员在保持经济增长上承担着巨大的压力。但是,刺激经济增长已加剧了中国的债务问题,增加了环境污染,还制造了政府必须解决的其他问题。

如果治理污染成功的话,这项运动可能会给中国带来更蓝的天和更清洁的水,这对中国的13亿人口来说有潜在的健康益处。

“对造成生态环境损害的地区,要终身追究领导干部的责任,”中央财经领导小组办公室副主任杨伟民说。“我们要使人们能够看得见星星、听得见鸟鸣。”

但这种努力也可能有代价。法国兴业银行(Société Générale)的经济学家在一份最近的研究报告中预测,限制环境污染可能会让经济增长速度减少0.2个百分点。

“适度放缓增长将是维持中期社会稳定的必要牺牲,”报告说。

全球铁矿石的价格已在猛跌,部分原因是人们预期,许多中国钢铁厂将不得不在今年冬天暂时关闭,铁矿石是炼钢的关键原料。

中国对全球经济如此之重要,以至于中国整治污染的运动可能会影响到世界各地的经济体,尤其是铁矿石出口国。澳大利亚的经济学家们已经开始担心了。

澳大利亚“完全依赖于中国——铁矿石的价格是这样,澳大利亚的国民收入也是如此,”在全球有业务的会计师事务所德勤(Deloitte)的澳大利亚首席经济学家克里斯?理查森(Chris Richardson)说。

虽然中国目前在太阳能和风能的装机容量上世界领先,但中国发电量的四分之三仍依靠煤电。随着越来越多的中国消费者购买空调、采用中产阶级的生活方式,家庭用电量正在上升。

为减少污染停掉供给住宅用户的电力在政治上是不现实的。这就意味着可能有必要让工业用户做出更大幅度的削减。

政府下属的全国乘用车市场信息联席会秘书长崔东树在接受电话采访时表示,中国政府一直在不可阻挡地提高对汽车污染标准的要求。他说,中国的首要任务正在从经济产出最大化转向环境保护,企业必须适应这种变化。

“汽车公司有足够的利润空间,”他说。“他们可以承受,但他们的生产进度可能会受到影响。”

治理污染的努力对全球市场的影响仍不确定。周一,中国官员说,市场可能在过度反应。

中国政府下属的中国钢铁工业协会副秘书长李新创表示,如果钢铁行业只是将过剩、过时、污染更大的钢铁厂关闭的话,中国将保持钢铁产量,不会减少。

今年夏天卸任的香港环境保护署前副署长陆恭蕙(Christine Loh)与内地官员有过密切合作,她说,中国有相当大的潜力在不损害经济的情况下整治环境。

“在清洁旧经济的同时,新经济仍在蓬勃发展,”她在一封电子邮件中写道。“所以,不应该太消极地看待总体情况。”

中国在搞自上而下的运动方面有好结果,也有坏结果。政府要求地方官员最大限度地提高经济产出时,他们有时会编造数据,这种情况最近在中国东北一些经济萧条地区就发生过。

上周三,习近平主席在十九大召开之际做工作报告时对环保工作表示支持。他说,“绿水青山就是金山银山。”

除了最大限度地提高经济产出外,习近平说,中国需要解决一个新的难题,既“人民日益增长的美好生活需要和不平衡不充分的发展之间的矛盾”,这就意味着需要更加重视环境保护。

Ailin Tang对本文有研究贡献。
翻译:Cindy Hao

China’s New Antipollution Push Could Cool Its Growth Engine

BEIJING — Through the past four decades, China has achieved breathtaking economic growth at the cost of smoggy skies, fetid streams and lakes of dying fish.

Now China is undertaking one of its most extensive efforts yet to crack down on corporate polluters, an effort that could be felt economically and in world markets.

Cities across China have stepped up sending squads of inspectors to steel mills, coal-fired power plants and other businesses, and ordered offenders to clean up their operations or risk being shut down. On Aug. 21, the environmental authorities ordered more than two dozen cities in northern China, including many main steel production centers, to reduce air pollution by 15 percent this winter.

Even tougher measures will be coming, Li Ganjie, China’s minister for environmental protection, said Monday at a news conference held in conjunction with the Communist Party congress, a twice-per-decade event at which the party selects new leaders to tackle its problems.

The campaign, which started two years ago but picked up speed in recent months, is so broad that it is starting to affect markets. Some economists have begun to warn of a possible modest slowing of the entire Chinese economy this winter.

Officials sought Monday to reassure the Chinese public and businesses that the pollution crackdown would help clean up the country without disrupting growth.

“It is impossible that such efforts will not have any impact on enterprises,” Mr. Li said. “But in the long run, and from the macro perspective, the impact will be minimal.”

Pollution figures strongly into the broader debate over the cost of growth in China. Chinese officials are under pressure to keep the economy revving to provide good jobs for its young people and for rural residents moving into cities, among others. But stimulating growth has compounded China’s debt problems, added to its pollution woes and created other complications that Beijing must address.

If successful, the antipollution campaign could produce bluer skies and cleaner water across China, with potential health benefits for the country’s 1.3 billion people.

“For those areas that have suffered ecological damage, their leaders and cadres will be held responsible for life,” said Yang Weimin, the deputy director of the Communist Party’s Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs. “Our people will be able to see stars at night and hear birds chirp.”

But the effort could have a cost as well. Economists at Société Générale, a French bank, predicted in a recent research note that environmental restrictions could shave two-tenths of a percent off economic growth.

“Modestly slower growth will be a necessary sacrifice for maintaining social stability over the medium term,” it said.

Global prices for iron ore, a crucial material for making steel, have slumped in part on expectations that many Chinese steel mills will have to close temporarily this winter.

China is so important to the global economy that a campaign against pollution here could affect economies around the world, particularly iron ore exporters. Economists in Australia are already starting to become concerned.

Australia “is absolutely dependent on China — that’s true of iron ore prices, but it’s also true of Australia’s national income,” said Chris Richardson, the chief Australia economist for Deloitte, the global accounting firm.

Although China now leads the world in its installations of solar and wind power, it still relies on coal to generate three-quarters of its electricity. Electricity use by households is rising as more Chinese consumers buy air-conditioners and adopt the trappings of middle-class life.

Turning off electricity to residential customers to reduce pollution is politically unrealistic. That means steeper cuts may be necessary for industrial users.

Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of the government-affiliated China Passenger Car Association, said in a telephone interview that the government had been inexorably tightening pollution standards. The country’s top priority has been shifting away from maximizing economic output and toward environmental protection, and companies must adapt, he said.

“Auto companies have adequate profits,” he said. “They can withstand it, but their production schedules may be affected.”

The pollution effort’s impact on global markets is uncertain, and on Monday Chinese officials said they may be overreacting.

Li Xinchuang, the deputy chairman of the government-affiliated China Steel Association, said Chinese production could continue undiminished if the industry simply closed excess, outdated steel foundries that pollute more.

Christine Loh, who was undersecretary for the environment for Hong Kong until last summer and worked closely with mainland officials, said that China had considerable potential for environmental cleanup without harming the economy.

“The new economy continues to thrive, while the old economy cleans up,” she wrote in an email. “So, the overall picture should not be seen too negatively.”

China’s track record on nationally mandated campaigns has been mixed. Told to maximize economic output, local officials have sometimes faked statistics, most recently in a few economically depressed areas of northeastern China.

President Xi Jinping endorsed the environmental effort in his work report last Wednesday at the start of the party congress. “Clear waters and lush mountains are as valuable as gold and silver,” he said.

Beyond maximizing economic output, Mr. Xi said that his country needed to address a new dilemma, and one that implies greater attention to environmental protection, “between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.”