World in the Balance: China Revs Up

PBS Airdate: April 20, 2004
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Hour 1: The People Paradox
Hour 2: China Revs Up

Welcome to the future. PBS Digital.

NARRATOR: We used to worry that population, too many people, would destroy the environment. Now we understand that there's something even worse: affluence.

China is the world's biggest country, and as it becomes more and more affluent it will overtake the United States to become the world's worst polluter.

LESTER BROWN (Earth Policy Institute): China uses more steel than the United States. China consumes far more grain than the United States. China, you know, was once a billion poor people, but China's no longer a poor country.

NARRATOR: China may soon be the world's largest economy, with a middle class of 300 million people, all consumers, reaching for the good life: shopping, buying and even driving in record numbers. For many, it's the ultimate dream. But unless China cleans up its act, the dream could become an environmental nightmare, with a poisoned atmosphere, a world of dying forests and disappearing wildlife, flooded and baked by the searing heat of global warming.

China is at a crossroads and decisions made here will affect everyone on the planet.

CHANGHUA WU (The Green Development Institute): As the most populous country in the world, the future of China's environment will play a big role in determining the future of the world environment.

NARRATOR: Can this Asian giant pull back from the brink before it's too late? World in the Balance: China Revs Up, right now, on NOVA.

Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, dedicated to education and quality television.

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Funding for World in the Balance is provided by Marguerite and Jerry Lenfest; the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, sponsor of the Goldman Environmental Prize; and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Major funding for NOVA is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by PBS viewers like you.

Thank you.

NARRATOR: Along the rocky coast in Washington state, a steady wind blows in from across the Pacific. Every month, Dan Jaffe comes to check the quality of the air in this remote place near the northwestern most corner of the continental U.S.

DAN JAFFE (Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry): We started the station to try to understand, "What's the quality of the air that's blowing into the United States?" This would be the air that comes in, and then we add our own local pollutants to it.

NARRATOR: The results were surprising. He and his team expected pristine ocean winds but their filters revealed a witch's brew of industrial poisons. A single canister like this could contain sulfur and mercury in varying concentrations, even killers like P.C.B.s and D.D.T.

DAN JAFFE: Most of the time, the concentration of these pollutants is fairly low, but once in a while, we get these large pulses of pollution that can get transported all the way across the ocean.

NARRATOR: The findings didn't seem to make sense. Air quality has been steadily improving over the last few decades, so where was the stuff in these filters coming from?

To find out, Jaffe built a flying laboratory, an airplane loaded with sensitive instruments, able to sniff the prevailing winds in search of chemical clues.

After dozens of flights over the ocean, Dan and his team constructed a detailed computer model that decisively fingered the culprit: China. From 3000 miles away, its pollution was reaching West Coast cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, cities that had already spent billions cleaning up their own air.

But there's another problem that the U.S. and China share. In America, our love affair with the automobile has helped make the U.S. the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that's produced when anything burns. Many scientists believe that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing the Earth to become overheated, with dangerous and unpredictable storms. And now China is following in America's footsteps. By the year 2030, China could match the U.S. in carbon emissions. If so, the two countries would contribute more to global warming than all other nations combined.

DAN JAFFE: The United States has set the standard for high living, high energy use. We're one of the most consumptive countries in the world, and if the rest of the world emulates us, the global atmosphere is going to suffer. The world is going to suffer.

NARRATOR: China is exporting air pollution and carbon emissions, but we export our lifestyle. And China is one of our best customers.

A winter morning in Beijing: the air is thick with what looks like fog. But it's not fog.

DING YIHUI (China National Climate Center): The air in Beijing has been getting worse. It's mostly comprised of smoke, not fog. Urban haze is different than fog, which has water vapor, while this pollution doesn't.

NARRATOR: It's no secret where this smog is coming from. Even at 7:30 in the morning, the streets are already jammed with automobiles. Ten years ago, bicycles ruled these roads. But today, they're being forced aside. And that's just one change.

Over the course of just a few short decades, the entire city has been utterly transformed into a modern megalopolis, home to over 13 million people. And other Chinese cities have grown just as dramatically.

In the last two decades, more than 100 million people have moved from the countryside into urban centers, making this the largest migration in human history.

Among the recent arrivals are 39-year old Xi Zhinong, his wife Shi Lihong and their four-year old daughter, Xixi.

SHI LIHONG: Go brush your teeth and wash your face.

NARRATOR: The family had been living near Xi Zhinong's provincial home town in southwestern China, but a year ago, they decided to relocated to Beijing.

SHI LIHONG: I'll help you in a second.

NARRATOR: They came in search of independence and opportunity, and to secure their young daughter's future. Their gamble seems to be paying off. They've just bought their first apartment, and they're living a material life that would have been out of reach even a decade ago. Not only do they have cash in their pockets, but they also have plenty of places to spend it.

Shopping malls like this one are springing up all over China. Here, everything a consumer could possibly want is for sale. From the latest in personal grooming...

SALESPERSON: Press and release, press and release. It works on thick or thin clothes.

NARRATOR: the newest kitchen gadgets.

SALESPERSON: The reason to add water is to get a finer texture. Level it and tighten. Try it.

ORVILLE SCHELL (University of California, Berkeley, School of Journalism): Rising affluence does presume that people want more and more things. And it's a conveyor belt; it doesn't stop at any finite point. It used to be that the Chinese had what they call the five big things they all wanted. It was a radio, a sewing machine, and a bicycle. If you got those five big things, you were considered at the top of the food chain. But now there's no limit to it. After you get the car, then you want the house and the TV and the satellite dish, and then to travel. And it goes on and on and on.

NARRATOR: The world has never seen a country get so rich, so fast. According to the Chinese government, the economy has grown at the red hot rate of eight percent every year for more than 20 years. Average incomes have quadrupled. And energy consumption has grown even faster. China has huge reserves of coal. Coal provides 70 percent of the energy used to generate electricity and to forge steel for construction and manufacturing.

Over the years, industries increased their output to meet demand but without putting pollution controls in their smokestacks.

XI ZHINONG (Wildlife Photographer): Are you ready? Are you cold? Not cold?

NARRATOR: Every day, when Xi Zhinong and Shi Lihong take Xixi to school, they expose themselves and her to Beijing's toxic air. According to the U.N., China is home to seven of the world's 10 most polluted cities. And respiratory disease has become a leading killer, claiming lives at 10 times the rate found in the United States.

Even on what looks like a clear day, the air contains particulate dust, sulfur, lead, carbon monoxide and other poisons. Right now, that's the price of living in China's most economically advanced cities.

XI ZHINONG: I worry about my own child growing up in this city. All she can see are gray skyscrapers under the gray sky. Sometimes I think that I don't belong here, but I'm living here because I really think it is best for my family.

SHI LIHONG: Let's go in.

NARRATOR: Xi Zhinong is old enough to remember his country's recent past, when the nation's economy was in ruins.

As recently as the 1970s, China was suffering the effects of one of the cruelest political experiments in history. Chairman Mao Zedong had tried, and failed, to industrialize the countryside in an effort called "The Great Leap Forward." He ordered millions of peasants to stop farming. He, instead, set them to work forging steel in primitive furnaces. But it led to disaster, a widespread famine that claimed more than 30 million lives.

KELLY SIMS GALLAGHER (Harvard University): One of the things that Chairman Mao was supposed to do in the communist revolution was to equalize opportunity and quality of life for Chinese people. And by the end of the Cultural Revolution, China was as poor and impoverished as, perhaps, it had ever been.

NARRATOR: Then in 1979, things began to change. A new, pragmatic leader named Deng Xiao Ping came to power. Deng needed to find a way to feed a billion people. He decided to rein in population growth no matter what the cost. He imposed a draconian new policy called the one-child rule.

Under the plan, most Chinese families were restricted to a single child. The policy outraged human rights groups, as stories of forced abortions and sterilization began to leak out. But the leadership was determined to head off both a human and a political disaster.

BILL MOOMAW (Tufts University): If the population gets to be too large, there will be a famine. And if you look at Chinese history, often when there has been a famine there has been a revolution, and the regime in power gets overthrown. It's a well-learned lesson in China; they've done the experiment many times. So this race between the stork and the plow, as it's sometimes called...can you produce enough food to feed the ba-...the new children? And so forth. So China has really actually slowed its population growth rather dramatically. I mean, there are lots of people in China, but the population is not growing that fast.

NARRATOR: Population control was a controversial first step toward the goal of turning China into a modern nation.

Deng's next step sent a shockwave around the world. He set out to dismantle the communist economic system, abandoning the revolutionary ideals that had brought him to power. The Communist Party of China announced a surprising new policy: "To get rich is glorious."

ORVILLE SCHELL: In the early '80s, you could just see the streets slowly come alive with little shops and private entrepreneurs out there. And then, by the mid-'80s, you began to see people actually renting shops from state-owned enterprises. And then they would rent the whole enterprise. And slowly, you got this foliation of all of these private business people.

NARRATOR: But the economic forces the party had unleashed were about to lead the country into an environmental nightmare: a 20-year binge of industrial development without any pollution controls.

PAN YUE (China Environmental Protection Agency): During the last two decades we were monomaniacal in our pursuit of development. That twisted policy put growth ahead of all else and caused us to neglect many other problems, like infrastructure, energy policy and the environment.

NARRATOR: Today, 25 years after Deng's reforms began, China's economy is still growing faster than any other on the planet. But despite its leap into the 21st century the country is still largely powered by a 19th century fuel.

Every day, small factories, like this one, produce millions of coal cylinders for use in home cooking and heating stoves. The process has hardly changed for over a century. Crushed coal and water combine to make a cake-like batter. An antiquated press turns the rough mixture into circular bricks. After drying, they emerge at the other end of the line. When an order comes in, a waiting messenger loads up his trike, and heads out to make a delivery. He'll ride miles through the crowded city streets to reach his customer. Most people in China use coal to heat their homes.

China has begun to import natural gas and oil, and the largest buildings in Beijing have been retrofitted to use cleaner fuels.

MR. WEN (Coal user): Keep going.

NARRATOR: Today's customer, Mr. Wen, a retired school teacher, prefers coal because it's cheap. Just two loads like this one will heat his three-room house for the entire winter for around $50.

But there's a problem with this cheap source of energy: coal is notoriously dirty. Burning it releases sulfurous smoke filled with poisonous chemicals. As China has become more affluent, the need for coal is greater than ever.

This is Beijing's newest coal-fired power plant. It's only a few years old, but engineers are already adding a fifth turbine to meet ever-rising demand. In 1980, China burned roughly 400 million tons of coal, about half of the yearly total of the United States. But today China uses more than three times as much, 1.3 billion tons. That's nearly four times more than India, the world's second most populous country, and 25 percent more than the United States, the world's biggest energy consumer. This plant operates at about 40 percent efficiency, on par with most conventional power plants in the U.S.

Until recently, China said that it couldn't afford to build these cleaner facilities. Now they can't afford not to.

JOHN HOLDREN (Harvard University): The estimates of the Chinese themselves are that they're losing something in the range of six percent of their GDP to the public health costs from pollution: lost productivity, costs of health care, and so on, associated with pollution. They already know they have to fix it.

NARRATOR: The cost of confronting the country's legacy of pollution can be very high.

This is the entrance to Capital Steel, China's third largest producer. Steel is an essential commodity. Without it, the Chinese economy would grind to a halt. Like electricity, steel production depends on coal. For decades Capital Steel was one of the biggest polluters in Beijing, until recently. In a rare and surprising move, the government ordered the company to install costly new pollution controls and to close an aging furnace, reducing steel output by 20 percent.

ZHANG JAI JUN (Capital Steel): What's standing behind us now is the abandoned former Number 1 steel factory. At the beginning of this year, we followed the government order to close it down because those facilities were relatively backward. It was very difficult to make this transition.

NARRATOR: Across China, the government has begun to close down factories that are too polluting, putting many people out of work. Although it's hard to predict, these closings may be a sign that China is moving into a new phase in its development, following a well-known path called the Kuznets Curve.

In the 1950s, economist Simon Kuznets was charting the relationship between industrialization and the environment. He noticed that when countries first industrialize, pollution levels rise. As the process of modernization continues, levels eventually peak and begin to decline. He theorized that rising affluence plays a role; a more well-to-do population demands a cleaner environment. When a country reaches a critical level of affluence, pollution levels drop. England, the United States, Germany and Japan all followed this pattern. Most observers believe that China will eventually reduce industrial pollution.

But at the same time, China is grappling with another problem, which may prove much more difficult to solve. In China's largest cities, the worst air pollution is no longer from smokestacks. It's from the tailpipes of cars. Just a few years ago, these crowded streets were nearly deserted. In 1995, the number of cars in all of China stood at a mere two million. Today, the number is 20 million and rising. Beijing has seen the most rapid growth of all, with 400,000 new cars rolling onto the city's roads in 2003 alone.

ORVILLE SCHELL: The car is the beating heart of this whole sort of consumer culture that China has become enamored of. And it's really one of the highest expressions of the individual's right: to go where you want, when you want, with whom you want. The car is the mother of all symbols and the highest stage of symbolic success.

NARRATOR: Today, it's increasingly hard to find a middle class Chinese consumer who doesn't own or want to own a car.

Xi Zhinong and Shi Lihong moved to Beijing to start their own business. He's a photographer and she's a writer. Together they produce films about wildlife in China.

XI ZHINONG: I was very close to them, just two meters away.

NARRATOR: These two are more environmentally conscious than most Chinese, but even they are talking about buying a car. Shi Lihong is the driving force behind the decision, so it's her job to shop for the family car.

TAXI DRIVER: Where to?

SHI LIHONG: The Asian Games Auto Market, please.

COMPUTERIZED TAXI VOICE: Welcome to your ride in a Beijing taxi. Please help us improve our service.

SHI LIHONG: It's a very difficult decision. We've saved some money, and there are financing plans available, so we can afford to buy a car. It's more convenient taking our daughter places. The bus can be so crowded, and in the winter it's too cold to ride a bicycle.

TAXI DRIVER: And the traffic can be dangerous.

SHI LIHONG: Right, with so many cars, sometimes we feel it's dangerous to put our daughter on a bicycle.

NARRATOR: The Asian Games car market is the largest in Beijing. Here, competing dealers share a large outdoor space to showcase dozens of different makes and models. But almost none of them are Chinese because 20 years ago China made a decision to let foreign companies make nearly all of its cars.

KELLY SIMS GALLAGHER: Well, remember, at that time, in the 1980s, there was very little foreign investment in China. So China went to these foreign auto companies and said, "We'd like you to invest in our country. We have a gigantic market of 1.2 billion people," and, "Please come and invest."

NARRATOR: First to take the Chinese up on their offer was Beijing Jeep, a joint venture between American Motors Corporation and the Chinese government. Party officials approved of Jeep's utilitarian, 4-wheel drive design.

Today, though, the factory is turning out something much different: upscale SUVs that cater to a consumer market that has grown faster than anyone expected.

PAUL ALCALA (President and Chief Executive Officer, Beijing Jeep): I think the primary factor that captures the imagination is just the magnitude of the numbers. The passenger car market grew here in China about 60 percent last year. Uh, this year, we were not expecting, uh, that rate of growth, but it looks like we may get up to 80 percent this year.

NARRATOR: Others, including Volkswagen, Ford, Suzuki, Toyota and the world's largest auto maker, General Motors, have since followed. All are hoping that China will take to cars like other affluent nations have.

PHIL MURTAUGH (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, General Motors China Group): We believe that China will absorb almost 20 percent of the entire world's growth in vehicles over the next 10 years. And somewhere around the turn of the quarter century, China will probably pass the U.S. as the world's largest, largest auto market.



SALESMAN: Are you looking for a Jetta?

SHI LIHONG: Yes, I'm looking at the price.

SALESMAN: It sells for 120,000 Yuan. It's the top of the line with a manual shift.

SHI LIHONG: How does it conform to environmental standards?

SALESMAN: All Jettas conform to the Euro II emission standard.

NARRATOR: This Volkswagen is a Chinese-built car, for sale only in China. The car looks as stylish and well-built as any American or European model. But looks can be deceiving.

Under the hood lurks a dirty little secret. The Euro II emission standard, a proud selling point for the salesman, is actually 10 years out of date. Today, Europe conforms to a much cleaner standard called Euro V. And American standards are even tougher.

KELLY SIMS GALLAGHER: Chinese cars are just much more polluting than U.S. or European cars, and that's because they don't have the same emissions control equipment that the U.S. or European or Japanese cars have. A Chinese car would never meet emission control standards in the United States or Europe because the equipment in the Chinese cars is fairly antiquated.

NARRATOR: The Chinese were determined to learn how to build cars, and protecting the environment was not a priority. When the partnership deals were negotiated, the government failed to impose state-of-the-art environmental standards, and the car makers didn't insist.

PAUL ALCALA: In terms of a foreign company doing business here, within China, we work within the framework and within the regulations. I've been very satisfied with the partnership that we see between the foreign joint ventures here and the Chinese government.

NARRATOR: Today, although China is addicted to outdated pollution controls in cars that are not fuel efficient, its auto industry has helped to lift millions out of poverty. Here at General Motors' Shanghai plant, workers earn up to 1000 Yuan per month, putting them in the top 20 percent income bracket.

And each car that rolls off this assembly line contains steel, glass, rubber and other components fabricated by other workers in other Chinese factories, making cars one of the most powerful engines of the Chinese economic miracle.

ORVILLE SCHELL: China's made the automobile industry a pillar industry. I think they're getting ever more dependent on it because it is expanding at such a staggering rate and it's creating jobs. And there's one thing that China needs now: it's jobs.

NARRATOR: To keep up even with its modest population growth, China needs to create 15 million new jobs each year. By some estimates the auto industry and related businesses employ seven percent of the country's private sector work force, providing a living for tens of millions of people.

Few consumers are pressing for more effective pollution controls that could raise the price of cars. And the government doesn't want to do anything that could slow down sales and cost the country jobs.

ERIK ECKHOLM (The New York Times): The challenge of jobs and employment, I think, is one of the biggest headaches for the Chinese government. In fact, it's their biggest nightmare; they are so concerned about social stability, avoiding chaos, keeping the system together. You have, in the cities, tens of millions of former state workers now losing their jobs, very resentful. So if there is a severe slow-down or a real slump in economic growth, this will be very dangerous for the rule of the Communist Party.

ORVILLE SCHELL: The government's got to keep this wheel spinning or they may end up getting spun right out of office. China has a terrible dilemma upon which it is impaled. It has to develop to improve the standard of living for people, and yet, at the same time, the environmental consequences of that development are so enormous.

NARRATOR: Every month, Beijing's 4x4 Club welcomes new members. Today, a half-dozen rookies are learning how to gun three tons of Jeep up a vertical embankment. Chinese consumers appear to be taking to gas-guzzling SUVs much as Americans have, without much concern about the environmental consequences.

PAUL ALCALA: When we look at the SUV market in the U.S., I think the market share is about 20 to 25 percent of the total market. Here, within China, the SUV segment is just beginning to expand. We see the SUV segment over the next five to 10 years more than doubling from the point we are today.

KELLY SIMS GALLAGHER: If there were as many cars per person in China as there are today in the United States, China would have 800 million plus cars, which is four times more than we have in United States today.

NARRATOR: In the year 2000, the Chinese government used its absolute authority to ban leaded gasoline in a single stroke. The government could act just as decisively with emission standards, but so far it is taking a gradual approach.

But even the strictest standards cannot prevent an internal combustion engine from producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct of burning gasoline. And that means that China, considered the number two contributor to global warming, could become number one.

DING YIHUI: We estimate that between 2020 to 2030, China's emission of carbon dioxide will probably increase greatly. By then it will be hard to tell who is the largest emitter, China or the United States.

NARRATOR: China's economic miracle can only be sustained if it expands beyond cities to include the vast rural countryside.

Weishan is a provincial community of 280,000, a market town surrounded by farms. It's where Xi Zhinong was born. The town is steeped in history, with 14th century architecture that dates back to the Ming Dynasty, but it's also facing a future full of change.

XI ZHINONG: With the fast development China has seen in recent years, with the need for economic growth and improvement of people's living standards, China's cultural heritage is disappearing rapidly, although not so rapidly here. I know that, even as I feel happy to be able to see these ancient structures, the town has problems in that many people here are very poor.

NARRATOR: In rural China, hundreds of millions of people lack basic conveniences like indoor plumbing and, in some places, electricity. But the consumer culture is slowly making inroads here.

ERIK ECKHOLM: The government, in part, is relying on what we used to call trickle-down economics, that if some parts of the country get a lot richer and some people get rich and invest, that the benefits will trickle down to the rest of the people.

NARRATOR: Improving the rural economy is vitally important to the entire country. Some 800 million people live in China's heartland. Increasing the disposable income in the pockets of so many people would not only lift them out of poverty, it would be a powerful stimulus to propel the nation's economy into the future.

Xi Zhinong has come home to the countryside to join in a family celebration, the birthday of his cousin's infant son, Liu Xiao. Liu Xiao is turning one, a particularly auspicious occasion in Chinese culture, even more important because he is an only child and likely to remain so.

Couples no longer need to ask the government for permission to have children, but large families face higher taxes. That, and the cost of educating children, keeps families small.

ERIK ECKHOLM: I think, even in rural villages, some of the poorer families that maybe 10 years ago had four or five children, are now discovering that they can't afford to school their children. And so, while some may prefer to have two, and there's still some preference to have a son, many families are accepting, quite willingly, that they will have one child.

NARRATOR: Most of these middle schoolers have never known a brother or a sister. As a result, they've enjoyed a higher standard of living. These kids watch TV and know what life is like in other places. Many of them will eventually move to a city, abandoning a way of life which has become too difficult.

The life of a Chinese farmer has always been marginal and will continue to be for those who choose to stay on the land. For thousands of years farming has been the mainstay of rural China. Nestled in the valleys around Weishan, in Southern Yunnan Province, lies some of the most productive cropland in Asia. But like most of the farmland in China, there's just not enough of it. Though home to 25 percent of the world's population, China has only seven percent of the world's arable land. And it's been pushed to the breaking point. Every available acre has been put under cultivation. Even steep hillsides have been carved into terraces and farmed.

ERIK ECKHOLM: Right now, too much of rural China is being farmed. And it's being farmed very inefficiently without producing much benefit for the people who live on the land.

NARRATOR: A typical family farm is less than an acre in size, large enough to provide food and possibly a small surplus to sell at Weishan's weekly market, but little else. The average cash income for peasants like this is less than $25 a month. And it's getting hard to grow even enough food to make that tiny amount.

LESTER BROWN: Between 1998 and 2003, grain production fell from three hundred and ninety-two million tons to three hundred and twenty-six million tons. This drop of 66 million tons is greater than the grain harvest of Canada for example.

One of the reasons was because of spreading water shortages. China has limited fresh water reserves. As the country has grown more affluent, cities and industry have claimed water once used for agriculture. Farmers are facing a tough new reality: 1,000 tons of water used for irrigation yields crops worth about $200. But the same thousand tons of water used in manufacturing produces goods worth a total of $14,000.

And as weather patterns change, perhaps as a result of global warming, China is becoming drier, aggravating its water shortage.

DING YIHUI: The water problem will be much more serious if the climate keeps changing and becomes drier. Then what will we do about it?

NARRATOR: Chinese farmers are used to taking a beating from nature. In 1998, a devastating flood struck the Yangtze River valley. During the summer months, unusually heavy rains saturated the region. The Yangtze rose by more than 20 feet and stayed that way for weeks.

It's ironic, but the same farmers who suffered from the disaster may have caused it, by stripping the hills of trees in order to grow crops. Trees absorb water and reduce run off. But when the rains came, there was nothing to prevent torrents of water from pouring straight into the river basin. By the time the flood receded, thousands had died and millions had been left homeless.

The government quickly ordered an end to farming on steep hillsides and began planting trees. The move cost tens of thousands of poor farmers their meager livelihoods, but if the government hadn't acted, more flooding would have followed.

At the same time that crop yields are shrinking, China needs more food than ever because rising affluence has led to a richer diet. In Weishan's busy market, chicken, duck and pork are all in high demand. Meat consumption has risen by 400 percent in the last 20 years. To meet this increased demand for food, China has begun to turn to world markets.

LESTER BROWN: I think within the next two...two years there will be a long line of ships stretching from the United States across the Pacific to China, loaded with grain, probably with two to three ships leaving every day. And this will be a new link between the two countries. To pay for imports, the country will need to create hundreds of millions of high-quality jobs.

ERIK ECKHOLM: Farming is not going to provide the jobs for the future; new industries are the only way out. The good side is that, as villagers have more money and more industry, they will stop ravaging the land so much. On the other hand, all the problems, the environmental problems of consumption and production will multiply very fast. Energy use will go up; pollution in some ways will go up.

NARRATOR: Xi Zhinong and his family hope to see prosperity come to the countryside for the better life it will offer to Liu Xiao and his generation.

XI ZHINONG: Everyone has the right to seek a better life. Why should people in the country live in the past?

NARRATOR: In most countries, environmental protection has come about when the government is forced to respond to public pressure. China has an environmental movement, mostly made up of students, but it's rather small and timid. For all its economic advances, China is still ruled by the Communist Party with limited tolerance for dissent.

Xi Zhinong has felt the consequences of standing up for the environment against the government. His work as a wildlife photographer frequently brings him to locations where environmental problems are acute.

Today, he's in the Wang Lang forest preserve, China's oldest protected area. He and his guide are hiking up to 10,000 feet. They're looking for the golden snub-nosed monkey, a threatened species found only in China. For more than a decade Xi Zhinong has been studying and filming these elusive animals in their alpine habitat, which has been decimated by logging.

XI ZHINONG: In 1992, when I started filming golden snub-nosed monkeys in Yunnan, commercial logging was still going on. So every time I lugged my gear onto a bus, what we passed most often were trucks full of logs, dozens of trucks even within a single day.

NARRATOR: At the time, Xi Zhinong was working for the forestry bureau. He knew much of the logging was illegal and that poachers used logging roads to gain access. But when he spoke up against it, he was fired from his job. Undaunted, he continued to work on his own, and after nearly ten years of effort, he and his wife released a film that graphically showed the plight of these threatened primates. The local authorities were shamed into cracking down. It was one of the first incidents where a public outcry and media coverage succeeded in safeguarding the environment, and Xi Zhinong hopes it is a sign of things to come.

XI ZHINONG: Recently, the government is paying more attention to this problem, and the Chinese mass media has played a crucial role. More and more people are starting to pay attention to the environment.

NARRATOR: But even as China is beginning to see the light on the environment, some policymakers question whether a nation in the throes of new development should be held to the same standards as the industrialized countries, especially when it comes to carbon emissions and global warming.

JOHN HOLDREN: What people too easily forget is that the great bulk of the problem, up until now, was caused by the industrialization of the countries that are now rich, the United States, Japan, Europe. And now we're saying to the developing countries, "Gee, we're terribly sorry. We used up the ability of the atmosphere to hold carbon dioxide, so you can't put any more in." This is not a welcome position.

NARRATOR: The fastest growing burden on the atmosphere, in both the U.S. and in China, comes from transportation. In crowded cities, mass transit would seem an obvious choice. Beijing has a brand new subway, but it's small and inconvenient. It has 100 kilometers of track but to serve the entire city it would need to be many times larger. But there's little public interest in mass transportation—China has fallen in love with cars. And even though the Chinese government has yet to mandate such basics as fuel economy standards, there is already talk of leapfrogging the technologies of the past.

XU JING (China Ministry of Science): We don't want to follow the old road of the advanced countries, in which traditional gas-powered cars dominate the market. Therefore the government has attached great importance on developing new power systems, especially innovations such as fuel cells, and on having an impact within the auto industry.

CAR DEMONSTRATOR: Let me say a few words about how this car works. It's a hy-wire. "Hy" means hydrogen; it's powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. "Wire" means "drive by wire;" all controls, such as steering, turning, and accelerating are executed electronically.

NARRATOR: In Beijing, General Motors is showing off its hydrogen-powered concept car. Hy-Wire has no internal combustion engine. The auto is powered by a fuel cell, a device that uses hydrogen to generate electricity. It doesn't require a drop of gasoline. The only emission is water, pure enough to drink.

But no one knows where the hydrogen will come from. It can be made from water but the process requires a lot of energy. It can also be extracted from coal, but that releases carbon and leads to global warming. General Motors in the U.S. has spent more than a billion dollars so far to develop this new technology, and there's no end in sight.

China, with its massive population and fondness for cars, potentially offers a huge market for any company that can help it out of its environmental dilemma. But will the government create incentives through regulation?

KELLY SIMS GALLAGHER: If China introduced the toughest environmental standards in the world, no foreign auto company would walk away from 1.3 billion people and the second largest economy in the world. There is no doubt in my mind that the foreign auto companies could meet any standard that the Chinese government imposed.

NARRATOR: For now, fear of job loss has made the government slow to enact protective laws.

CHANGHUA WU: To some degree, this is a tug of war between the people in charge of the economy and those advocating for environmental protection. Where is the balancing point between these two? No one's found it yet.

NARRATOR: If China follows historical example, it will likely find a way to clean up its local air pollution. But as China grows in affluence, it joins the company of nations that seek the keys to solving a far more daunting problem, global warming.

JOHN HOLDREN: Between the United States and China, both of our countries need to diversify our energy sources. Working on energy efficiency technologies like hybrid automobiles that can get far more miles per gallon, working on advanced renewable energy technologies, advanced nuclear technologies, fossil fuel technologies that can capture the carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere, all of that is a challenge not for any one country. It's a challenge for the whole world to confront and surmount together.

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World in the Balance: China Revs Up

Narrated by
Oliver Platt

Written by
Chris Schmidt & Joel Olicker

Produced and Directed by
Chris Schmidt

Executive Producer for World in the Balance
Linda Harrar

Associate Producer
Todd Wendel

Edited by
David Carnochan

Director of Photography
Gary Henoch

Sound Recordists
Guo Wan Hui
Rick Patterson
Juan Rodriguez
Saul Rouda

Additional Camera
Michael Anderson
Tom Kaufman

Music by
Michael Bacon

Translation Voices
Stephanie Clayman
Jerry Kissel
Will Lebow
Michelle Proude
Richard Snee
Scott Winters
Tug Yourgrau

3FX Inc.

Director of Production
Janel Cunneen

Field Producer
Dan Rote

Online Editor and Colorist
Mark Steele

Audio Mix
John Jenkins

Sound Editor
Geoff Birmingham

Chinese Translation
Hua Dong

Production Assistant
Joanna Arong

Archival Material
Storm Stock
Streamline Films
Wild China Films
The Long Bow Group
Linda Harrar Productions

Special Thanks
Bill Hawkins
Jane Roberts
The Jaffe Research Group
The People of The Makah Nation
Beijing Television
Beijing Jeep
GM China Group
The Earth Policy Institute
The Professional Association for China's Environment
China's Meteorological Administration
The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
The Fletcher School of Diplomacy
The State Environmental Protection Agency of The People's Republic of China
Capital Steel
Wild China Films
Wanglang Nature Reserve
World Wildlife Fund

Senior Producer for Powderhouse Productions
Joel Olicker

NOVA Series Graphics
National Ministry of Design

NOVA Theme
Mason Daring
Martin Brody
Michael Whalen

Post Production Online Editor
Spencer Gentry

Closed Captioning
The Caption Center

Jonathan Renes
Diane Buxton
Amanda Hanson

Senior Researcher
Ethan Herberman

Production Coordinator
Linda Callahan

Unit Manager
Lola Norman-Salako

Gabriel Cohen-Leadholm

Legal Counsel
Susan Rosen Shishko

Post Production Assistant
Patrick Carey

Associate Producer, Post Production
Nathan Gunner

Post Production Supervisor
Regina O'Toole

Post Production Editor
Rebecca Nieto

Post Production Manager
Maureen Barden Lynch

Supervising Producer
Stephen Sweigart

Producer, Special Projects
Susanne Simpson

Coordinating Producer
Laurie Cahalane

Senior Science Editor
Evan Hadingham

Senior Series Producer
Melanie Wallace

Managing Director
Alan Ritsko

Senior Executive Producer
Paula S. Apsell

A Co-Production of NOVA and Powderhouse Productions, Inc.

© 2004 WGBH Educational Foundation and Linda Harrar Productions, LLC

All Rights Reserved

World in the Balance

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