Is China finally cracking down on factory pollution? Inspectors at the country’s Ministry of Environment have charged, fined, or reprimanded officials from over 80,000 factories in 10 provinces in the last year, according to NPR. One estimate indicates around 40 percent of the country’s factories have been at least briefly shuttered.
Whole industrial regions have been temporarily closed in China, while inspectors conduct surprise inspections. They’ve cut gas and electricity to discover which businesses are adhering to the country’s environmental laws, and which aren’t. Some companies have moved their entire supply chains over to Bangladesh or India to keep up with orders.
Michael Crotty told NPR in his almost 20 years in China, he has never seen a crackdown like this. He’s the president of MKT & Associates, which exports textiles from the country. He said the crackdown reminds him of America post-Clean Water Act in the 1970’s. He told NPR, “At that time, we in the textile business saw many dyeing and printing houses shut down because they couldn’t comply with the regulations. We’re seeing a similar process taking place here in China, and it’s much, much bigger. The disruption is larger.” MKT & Associates general manager Archie Liu estimated 40 percent of factories have been at least briefly closed in the flurry of inspections.
Shanghai-based environmental lawyer Peter Corne told NPR emissions are now watched in real time, and fees are slapped on factories when they discharge more than allowed by law. He said implementation will be different – accomplished not by the environment ministry, which will only be monitoring, but the tax bureau. This is key because according to Corne, the country’s tax bureaus are supported by rigorous laws that tend to be aggressively enforced.
Crotty said Americans shopping during the holidays could see higher prices due to the pollution crackdown in China – but that’s a small price to pay for a cleaner environment.