Tag Archives: pollution

‘Smeary’ Lake Erie — progress, and setbacks

The Great Lakes are no longer a dumping ground for industrial pollution. But farm run-off, aquatic invaders and climate change are once again putting fish and clean water in jeopardy

 

The Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes o New York state from the International Space Station, June 14, 2012, by the Expedition 31 crew. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=78617

The Great Lakes contain some 84% of North America’s surface fresh water, and about 21% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Above, the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes in New York state seen from the International Space Station, June 14, 2012, by the Expedition 31 crew. Photo: NASA, Public Domain

By Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News
March, 2016

EAST LANSING, Michigan—When Dr. Suess wrote his iconic children’s book “The Lorax” in 1971, he took a swipe at the Great Lakes.

“They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary, in search of some water that isn’t so smeary. I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.”

If the line doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry: It was removed after Ohio Sea Grant employees wrote the author to fill him in on the major strides in improving the lake’s health.

Lake Erie and its four great cousins have benefited mightily from cleanup and research in the 45 years since Dr. Suess penned what became his personal favorite. However, from plummeting prey fish populations to poopy Michigan rivers, grave threats to the region’s ecosystems remain, scientists and officials said at the annual Michigan Water Heritage conference held at Michigan State University this month.

Jon Allan, director of the Office of the Great Lakes, made note of the progress since the 1970s. For years we had “our backs to water, communities backed up to waterfront, we dumped our garbage there. How many of you remember those days?” he asked.

In the audience most of the roughly 150 water quality researchers, fisheries biologists, agency scientists, nonprofit employees and others raised a hand.

“Those days were not pleasant.”

Quagga mussels in fish trawl. Lake Michigan, August 2006. Photo NOAA

Quagga mussels, seen here in a 2006 fish trawl, are disrupting food chains in Lake Michigan. Photo NOAA, Public Domain

It’s true industrial waste largely stopped flowing into waters, but other problems percolated: invasive species, farm runoff, sewage overflows and failing septic systems. Quagga mussels are screwing up food chains in Lake Michigan, rivers are bearing the brunt of unregulated farm waste, and Lake Erie, once declared dead in the late 1960s, is once again suffering from large nutrient-driven dead zones.

Craig Stow, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, has spent more than two decades studying the Great Lakes. We’ve “slipped back” a bit recently, he said, saying that Lake Erie algae blooms have been on the rise in recent years. Last summer the largest bloom on record, about 300 square miles, tainted western Lake Erie.

Phosphorous runoff, mostly from farming, especially in Ohio’s Maumee River valley, feeds such blooms in the warm and shallow waters of the western part of the lake. Such blooms can produce harmful toxins and hurt humans and ecosystems. Stopping them will only become more difficult as the climate changes: long-term precipitation trends show bigger, fiercer downpours since the late 1990s; in conjunction, Maumee River discharge has increased. “We’re seeing some really important change in dynamics driving algal blooms in Lake Erie,” Stow said.

Officials are starting to pay attention. Just last month the U.S. and Canada adopted new targets to reduce phosphorous entering Lake Erie by 40 percent. Ohio governor and presidential hopeful John Kasich, beleaguered Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spearheaded the effort.

Stow said such efforts are crucial to prevent taking giant steps backward.

“We’re going to be managing phosphorous for a long, long time,” Stow said. “If we don’t develop good adaptive management plans, we’re going to be back in the same position we were in 1980s.”

There is some good news. Western Lake Erie is the only section in all five Great Lakes where prey fish populations—the ones feeding popular predator fish such as salmon and trout feed—haven’t trended downward since 1980, said David Bunnell, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

That can’t be said for Lake Michigan. Last year Bunnell and colleagues reported the lowest catch rate ever for all fish groups—commercially harvested fish, sport harvested fish and prey fish—in Lake Michigan. Salmon populations, too, were down 75 percent from their 2012 peak.

This is worrisome for anyone who remembers the salmon crash in Lake Huron about a decade ago due to vanishing alewife, a staple of the predator’s diet. Salmon still haven’t recovered there.

Nascent research suggests a bottom-up problem in the lakes, Bunnell said: Declining nutrients, due largely to invasive, filter-feeding quagga mussels, break the food chain for creatures like zooplankton, which sustain alewife and other prey fish.

“Salmon need to eat more alewife to get the same amount of calories.”-David Bunnell, USGSA study last year found about 80 percent of larval alewife in Lake Michigan had empty stomachs. And their energy density—how much of a caloric punch they pack—has declined about 33 percent over the past decade.

A crash in salmon stocks could have a considerable impact on the shore and throughout the region: Salmon are a hugely popular sport fish and bring a lot of dollars to the state.

Then there’s the poop problem.

“I’m glad my talk was after lunch,” quipped Molly Rippke, an aquatic biologist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Much of Tuesday’s session focused on the Great Lakes. Rippke reminded attendees “all rivers lead to the beach.” And many of those rivers bring poop with them.

Rippke estimated that 50 percent of Michigan rivers exceed acceptable levels of E. coli, a harmful bacteria indicating contamination from feces: Failing septic systems, farm runoff, congregating wildlife and combined sewer overflows.

Rippke and colleagues are trying to tease out causes to better stop the contamination. One thing was clear in their study of rivers: as agriculture increases, E. coli tends to increase, she said. They also found that the more forested land in a watershed, the lower the harmful bacteria levels.

But there is a glaring need for more science—they only sampled 11 percent of rivers in Michigan, a state with 120 major rivers covering 36,350 square miles.

While the conference focused on watersheds, with the city of Flint just an hour away, the issue of safe drinking water loomed large.

About 70 percent of people in Michigan are on a public water supply, Allan said.

“How many of you think that infrastructure is as good as it can be?” he asked the crowd made of mostly of water quality researchers and professionals.

Not a hand went up in the packed auditorium.

Creative Commons

This story was first published by Environmental Health News; view the original story. For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

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China’s soil as poisonous as its air and water

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
December 19, 2015

"Factory in China at Yangtze River" by High Contrast - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 de via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Factory_in_China_at_Yangtze_River.JPG#/media/File:Factory_in_China_at_Yangtze_River.JPG

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists. Click here for details. Factory in China at Yangtze River. High Contrast/Wikimedia/Creative Commons

I was wrong when I said in last week’s column there is little reliable information available about the extent of soil pollution in China.

Well, half wrong.

In my hunt for facts I foolishly neglected to turn to the work of Professor Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and among the leading western academics gathering and analysing information on environmental degradation in China.

As Prof. Economy says in one of her latest essays: “Soil contamination has long been the poor stepchild of China’s environmental movement, lagging well behind air and water pollution in terms of government, and even non-government, attention and resources.”

From what is known, it will come as no surprise that the extent of soil pollution in China is as extensive and as deadly as the degradation of the country’s air and water. China is cursed from the beginning because only just over 11 per cent of its land is suitable for agriculture. The material gathered by Prof. Economy indicates that approaching 20 per cent of this scarce resource is now so contaminated by heavy metals from industrial pollution that food produced on it is toxic to one degree or another.

Thirty years of chaotic, corrupt and unregulated industrialization has so polluted China that it is killing hundreds of thousands of its people – by some estimates, millions – every year.

Last week’s column was sparked by the coincidence of Beijing having to shut down most municipal services because of deadly air pollution. The “smog” came, embarrassingly, in the middle of the United Nations conference on climate change being held in Paris. Smog is common in Beijing and in all China’s industrial cities, with the particulate level frequently reaching 80 times the level the World Health Organization considers safe.

I wrote last week that this deadly pollution at home has become the main reason wealthy Chinese give for wanting to emigrate, or at least acquire a safe haven abroad. They look for safe environments in places like Vancouver, Toronto, and other well-regulated countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and countries of the European Union.

Nearly as important for the pollution refugees is the safety of food, and that, as we will see in a moment, is where soil pollution plays a major role.

The irony, of course, is that the people who can afford to flee China are often those who have become rich through the free-for-all industrialization that has destroyed the country’s environment.

As always, the poor are stuck with the mess. I pointed out in last week’s column that pollution and destruction of the environment has become the spark for the majority of the nearly 500 riots and outbreaks of social unrest that occur in China every day. Until recently, it was corruption by Communist Party officials and their relatives and friends in business and industry that drove Chinese on to the streets every day in their thousands.

This seething daily discontent alarms the Communist Party rulers, who with a struggling economy now have little legitimacy in power. The response of the regime under President and party boss Xi Jingping is to tighten authoritarian control of the population and to mount nationalist propaganda campaigns, such as threatening Japan and the imperial expansion to take control of the South China Sea.

Xi’s reconstruction of an intolerant police state is having success. It is unlikely that in the foreseeable future the Chinese Communist Party will become the first regime in modern times to be deposed because it poisoned its people.

Yet it is evident everywhere that the Communists know they are skating on thin ice. As well as air and water pollution, the contamination of soil is not only a massive health hazard, it is undermining China’s efforts to maintain food self-sufficiency. China’s drive to lease or buy vast tracts of agricultural land in Africa, Central Asia and Russia are to meet the pressing need to be able to provide uncontaminated food for people at home.

Not surprisingly, China’s Ministry of Environment Protection (MEP) has rejected requests to make public its data on soil pollution. But Prof. Economy found that officials in the highly industrialized southern province of Guangdong bordering Hong Kong to be more open.

Material published in May 2013 showed excessive levels of the toxic heavy metal cadmium in more than 150 batches of rice imported from other provinces. At the same time, Guangdong officials published the result of studies of soil contamination in their own province. They found that 28 per cent of soil in the Pearl River Delta was contaminated. That percentage rose to 50 per cent in the agricultural plots in the industrial cities of Guangzhou and Foshan.

Later in 2013, in an unusual outburst of frankness, the vice-minister of lands and resources, Wang Shiyuan, said that 3.3 million hectares (eight million acres) of agricultural land is so polluted that planting crops “should not be allowed.” That’s just under three per cent of China’s total arable land, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Last year the state-controlled Xinhua news agency reported that 40 per cent of China’s farm land is “suffering from degradation.” This description includes the results of over cropping, lack of fertilizers, and erosion as well as poisoning by acidification and contamination by industrial effluents.

Finally, says Prof. Economy, China’s MEP did release some statistics last year on soil pollution. Based on studies conducted between 2005 and 2013, the department found that more than 16 per cent of total land and 19.4 per cent of arable land was contaminated.

The MEP gave little detail about where, to what degree and what types of pollutants were revealed by the study. Roughly in line with the findings of the MEP was a 2014 examination by the National Environmental Monitoring Centre, which found that about 25 per cent of nearly 5,000 vegetable plots tested throughout the country were polluted.

The major industrial pollutants are cadmium, lead and mercury, but Prof. Economy said China also has a problem with antibiotics leeching into the soil. China consumes more than half the global total of antibiotics, and she quotes a study for the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying more than a third of these pharmaceuticals end up in the country’s waterways and soil. The long-term environmental impact of antibiotics pollution is still a matter of scientific study, but it is established that it leads to the development of resistant strains of diseases.

China’s rulers are undoubtedly worried about the long term impact of soil pollution on the country, its people and the survival of their regime. But they do not seem to have either the will or the capacity to do much about it. Prof. Economy reports that the Beijing government has pledged $US450 million over the next three years to help 30 Chinese cities tackle heavy metal pollution.

However, China doesn’t appear to have the skilled officials necessary to do an effective soil clean-up. The Ministry of Land and Resources says that people skilled in land de-contamination account for only one per cent of all workers in the environmental protection sector. In most countries about 30 per cent of environmental reclamation workers specialise in soil de-contamination. China has only 20 companies experienced in soil remediation and less than 10 are really competent.

It may well be that the popular clamour for action from the government and level of unrest on the streets become so intense that the Beijing regime is forced to take serious steps against soil pollution.

But until that time, my advice is to follow the example of my Chinese-Canadian friends. Examine food labels closely, and if there is any indication the product comes form China, leave it on the shelves.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Related Jonathan Manthorpe columns:

Beijing in smog on Nov. 29. Photo by LWYang/Flickr/Creative Commons

Vancouver’s housing bubble inflated by China’s air pollution

Vancouver’s grossly inflated housing market, the United Nations’ climate conference in Paris and China’s catastrophic environmental degradation are all linked in a circle of cause and effect.

China faces crippling water shortages and pollution

China’s drive for wealth and power is stumbling and could collapse over the country’s lack of water and its gross mismanagement of the resources it does have.

Beijing collides with China’s new community of human rights lawyers

The recent assault by President Xi Jinping on China’s community of human rights lawyers may be too late to insulate the Communist Party against a coming storm. There is a tacit acknowledgement by the party that China’s swelling community of about 300 human rights lawyers, their associates and like-minded advocacy groups have become a serious challenge to the one-party state.

Money flight impoverishes the poorest countries

It’s not just China’s “Red Nobility” and Russian oligarchs who are robbing their countries by illicitly exporting their wealth to compliant and complicit countries like Canada. There is an epidemic of money flight from developing countries, according to a new report from the Washington-based anti-money laundering organization Global Financial Integrity.

Vancouver: not mind-numbingly boring, but vacuously vain (public access)

The flood of vast wealth from China into Canada has not only contorted and distorted the Vancouver housing market beyond redemption, it has changed the sort of community the western Canadian metropolis is going to be for generations to come. In a bizarre piece of absence of mind and lack of attention, it has also hitched the future of Vancouver to the fate of the Chinese Communist Party. Vancouver’s low self-confidence and its destructive vanity have both played a part in these failures.

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State capitalism is back. By  Daniel De Bonis, report

State capitalism, which was considered only a few decades ago a relic of the mid-20th century, is back – with a vengeance. China has already surpassed the US as the world’s largest economy, after purchasing-power parity adjustments. And together, the economies of the so-called BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – should be twice as big as the American economy by 2018, according to the IMF. Each of these countries in its own way share an important trait: an interventionist state, whose tentacles spread across economic sectors, exercising direct or indirect control over a good number of enterprises.

Nothing is rotten in Denmark, but China lives in a corrupt time: report. By Deborah Jones, Report

China, Turkey and Angola became increasingly corrupt, more quickly, than most other countries in the world in the past year despite strong economic growth, Transparency International reported. “Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable – they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders.”  The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4).

Explainer: tumult in China’s casino stock market, by Michele Geraci

When I teach stock market investment to my Chinese students, I always remind them that the Shanghai stock exchange should be thought of more as a casino, rather than as a proper stock market. In normal stock markets, share prices are – or, at least, should be – linked to the economic performance of the underlying companies. Not so in China, where the popularity of the stock market directly correlated with the fall in casino popularity.

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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Vancouver’s housing bubble inflated by China’s air pollution

Vancouver from Howe Sound. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2014

Vancouver, from a ship in the Salish Sea. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2014

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
December 11, 2015

Beijing in smog on Nov. 29. Photo by LWYang/Flickr/Creative Commons

Beijing in smog on Nov. 29. Photo by LWYang/Flickr/Creative Commons

Vancouver’s grossly inflated housing market, the United Nations’ climate conference in Paris and China’s catastrophic environmental degradation were all linked this week in a circle of cause and effect.

On Tuesday the authorities in Beijing declared air pollution in the Chinese capital to be “hazardous to human health,” and issued a “red alert,” closing down many of the city’s services, banning outdoor sports and restricting travel.

Beijing’s notorious “smog” caused by industrial air pollution being trapped over the city by unfavourable weather conditions reached 400 microgrammes per cubic metre (mg/m3) on the air quality index. But Chinese authorities regularly ignore much worse air pollution, which is a curse throughout the country, and especially in the highly industrialized south and east coast regions. Chinese authorities estimate that air pollution kills up to 500,000 people a year, but foreign health experts put the number of deaths at well over one million.

The World Health Organization says 10 mg/m3 air quality is safe, but in China, and Beijing in particular there have been many occasions when levels of 800 mg/m3 have been recorded. The situation in the capital is so bad that the United States embassy has taken to taking its own air quality readings every day and posting them on Twitter. Chinese authorities have reacted angrily to what they say is an “unlawful” act of diplomatic rudeness.

But on Tuesday, the Beijing authorities appear to have been embarrassed into issuing the “red alert” by the international attention the pollution got, coming in the middle of the Paris conference. Also it was only last week that China issued a commitment to cut emissions of major pollutants from its mainly coal-fired power stations by 60 per cent by 2020.

The pollution and gross degradation of China’s air, earth and water is now much more than an embarrassment to the Communist Party authorities, 30 years after it embarked on industrialization without thought for the environmental consequences.

While China’s lethal air quality is in the headlines, it is probably water pollution that is the greatest killer and threat to the country’s environmental sustainability.

A government study a few years ago, found that most of China’s underground aquifers, which provide 70 per cent of the country’s drinking water, are irredeemably polluted. The aquifers supplying 90 per cent of China’s cities are polluted. The water in more than 75 per cent of rivers flowing through China’s cities is unsuitable for drinking or fishing, and 30 per cent of river water throughout the country is too polluted to be used for industry or agriculture. As a result, much of the food produced in China is toxic at various levels. Nearly 700 million Chinese – over half the population – drink water contaminated with human or animal waste.

There are no reliable figures about pollution of China’s sparse stocks or arable land. But it is notable that very many of the protests by Chinese are against either proposed or existing chemical plants and factories they accuse of polluting earth, air and water.

China’s appalling pollution problems are now the country’s top public issue, and one on which the continued political legitimacy of the Communist Party hinges.

Vancouver, looking west toward English Bay and the city's West Side, left. Photo by Gavin Kennedy, Copyright 2013

Vancouver, looking west. Photo by Gavin Kennedy © 2013

And that brings us to unsustainably inflated housing prices in cities favoured by fleeing Chinese.

Several polls in recent years by organizations such as The Hunrun Report and LIO Global have asked the fabulously wealthy members of the princeling and aristocrat classes in and around China’s Communist Party why about half of them want to emigrate as quickly as possible.

Consistently, the two main reasons given have been the lethally toxic pollution of China’s environment and, as a result, that much of the food produced in the country is poisonous. (The third reason given is wanting a good education for their children.)

Wealthy Chinese continue to get their money out of China by any means possible – most of them illegal – at ever faster rates. People’s Bank of China statistics for the first three months of this year indicated that $US80 billion fled China illegally in that period. That suggested that the illegal flight was on track to match last year’s total of $US324 billion, estimated by the UBS Group. But then in early August, China devalued its currency, the renminbi, and the flood turned into a torrent. Goldman Sachs estimates that $US200 billion was spirited out of China in the three weeks following the devaluation. The financial news agency Bloomberg, calculates that $US194 billion left China in September.

How much of this came to Canada may never be known, because Canada does not keep records of the country of residence of beneficial owners of property or companies. That anonymity is one of the great attractions of Canada to wealthy Chinese who want to hide their overseas holdings in case the political winds that always swirl around the Communist Party turn against them.

Those who have grown grossly wealthy on the profits of China’s 30-year manufacturing boom have, of course, the option to leave for their favourite sanctuaries, in the United States (52%), Canada (21%) and Australia (9%).

But, as is always the case, it is the poor or less well-off who are left to suffer. China’s blue collar classes, whose labour for rock-bottom wages and often in conditions not far off slavery, has filled the pockets of the Communist Party’s aristocracy, are just as furious and scared about what has been done to their country in the name of economic advancement.

But instead of heading to the airport, ordinary Chinese are protesting in the only way they can, and taking to the streets.

There are about 500 major protests and riots across China every day involving between 1,000 and 5,000 people. The Beijing government used to publish annual reports on the number of “mass incidents” involving over 1,000 protesters, but stopped doing so in 2008 when the numbers became embarrassingly large.

However, the numbers are still assembled and can be acquired through the right contacts. Most well-connected analysts inside and outside China agree there have been about 180,000 riots annually in China, for many years, though some put the number now as high as 250,000, or over 680 a day.

Many of these protests become violent and the authorities call out riot squads or the People’s Armed Police to restore order. In some areas where the links between the local Communist Party and the triad criminal gangs are especially strong, the authorities don’t bother with the police. They just call on triad gang fighters, whose methods of crowd control make even the Chinese police seem like gentlemen.

Until a few years ago the main cause of these outbursts of public discontent was corruption by local Communist Party or government officials. Usually, this involved theft of villagers’ land to sell to real estate developer buddies in return for backhand payoffs and cuts of the profits.

As the global recession began to hit China’s manufacturing industries after 2008, the protests were frequently against factory owners who had done a midnight flit to avoid paying their workers, or other examples of employer chicanery.

But public outrage at pollution or the threat of further environmental degradation has now become the spur for more than half the 500 riots every day, according to the 2012 “Social Unrest in China” report for the European Union.

Toxic pollution of earth, air, water and food remains the main cause of popular outrage in China. The Communist Party is well aware of the public anger, and is glumly contemplating the prospect that it might be the first regime in modern history to be ousted because it poisoned its citizens in order to feather its own bank accounts.

However, it is unlikely China’s people will rise up in the foreseeable future against their government in defence of their environment. Not least of the reasons to doubt the prospect of a national uprising is that the Communist Party has intensified the reach and efficiency of its authoritarian power since the new President and party boss Xi Jinping came to power at the end of 2012.

Since the 1989 students’ uprising in Tiananmen Square, successive Communist Party leaders have been swift to slit the throat of any organization that threatened to become a national focus of opposition to the regime. Xi pursues that survival strategy with even more vigour than his predecessors. The most compelling current evidence of his determination to smother even the most tentative questioning of Communist Party power is Xi’s campaign against China’s fledgling community of lawyers dedicated to the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

Since Xi came to power, scores of lawyers have been detained, dozens tortured and many are facing trial and imprisonment. Their supposed crimes are variations of a common theme: they have been “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” by defending or advocating for people the Communist Party wants to lock away.

Even among my most Sinophile friends there are now regular discussions over whether or not China can be accurately described as a fascist state. Majority opinion is that it has moved from authoritarianism into fascism. Some Sinophile friends quote contacts within the upper echelons of the Communist Party saying they fear they have in Xi chosen a new Mao Zedong as leader.

Mao, of course, had more blood on his hands, most of it of his fellow Chinese, than any leader of the 20th Century. Much of the last nearly 40 years since his death has been a half-hearted attempt to undo the evil Mao did. Half-hearted because as the rising tide of environmental degradation shows, without political accountability and the rule of law, China is destined to repeat past mistakes.

No wonder everyone who can wants to get out.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Related Jonathan Manthorpe columns:

China faces crippling water shortages and pollution

China’s drive for wealth and power is stumbling and could collapse over the country’s lack of water and its gross mismanagement of the resources it does have.

Beijing collides with China’s new community of human rights lawyers

The recent assault by President Xi Jinping on China’s community of human rights lawyers may be too late to insulate the Communist Party against a coming storm. There is a tacit acknowledgement by the party that China’s swelling community of about 300 human rights lawyers, their associates and like-minded advocacy groups have become a serious challenge to the one-party state.

Money flight impoverishes the poorest countries

It’s not just China’s “Red Nobility” and Russian oligarchs who are robbing their countries by illicitly exporting their wealth to compliant and complicit countries like Canada. There is an epidemic of money flight from developing countries, according to a new report from the Washington-based anti-money laundering organization Global Financial Integrity.

Vancouver: not mind-numbingly boring, but vacuously vain (public access)

The flood of vast wealth from China into Canada has not only contorted and distorted the Vancouver housing market beyond redemption, it has changed the sort of community the western Canadian metropolis is going to be for generations to come. In a bizarre piece of absence of mind and lack of attention, it has also hitched the future of Vancouver to the fate of the Chinese Communist Party. Vancouver’s low self-confidence and its destructive vanity have both played a part in these failures.

Further reading:

Vancouver “overvalued,” warns UBS in housing bubble study, BNN:http://www.bnn.ca/News/2015/10/30/Vancouver-overvalued-warns-UBS-in-housing-bubble-study.aspx

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Return to Jonathan Manthorpe’s International Affairs column page

 

  • Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Artists call for ban on fracking near national park

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Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bonne Bay, Newfoundland, Canada. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

Thirty two well known artists sent an open letter to Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper, and  Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Paul Davis, calling on them to establish a permanent buffer zone free of industrial activity around Gros Morn National Park  and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland.

The area has been the target of many unsuccessful oil exploration attempt over the past two decades. In 2012 a number of companies proposed to conduct hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) drilling right up to the park’s boundaries. Last summer, UNESCO called on Canada to do more to protect the site. There was much public opposition, and in 2013 the proposals failed. There is currently a moratorium on fracking while the provincial government reviews a commissioned industry study.

The artists include musician Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta, authors Lawrence Hill, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummy and Joseph Boyden, astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar, painter Mary Pratt, and actor Greg Malone, who said, “If we can’t protect the most brilliant places in our province and in our country, what are we doing?”

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