Rapid industrialization spilled pollution across China’s cities, rivers, and skies. Market-reforms in the 1989s opened first agriculture and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) like Shenzhen to local enterprise and overseas investors. Market reforms and factories then expanded across China, bringing prosperity but also pollution from mining and manufacturing. Through the first decades of reform, pollution seems far less important than jobs when wage rates even in 1990 average income per person (GNI) was just $330 a year. By 2000 average income had nearly tripled, but was still just $940 a year, and by 2015, average income was nearly eight times higher to $7,930.
Hundreds of millions migrated from rural China to new assembly plants and textile mills. An estimated 200 million migrant workers still form the “floating population” of informal labor.
China’s astonishing economic progress has been uneven but lifted these hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. As incomes pass $6,000 a year, empirical research shows countries invest in reducing pollution (the environmental Kuznets curve) even when it slows economic output. See, for example, “Does the Environmental Kuznets Curve for coal consumption in China exist? New evidence from spatial econometric analysis,” (Energy, Volume 114, 1 November 2016, Pages 1214–1223) From Abstract:
The estimation results verify the existence of the spatial correlations in coal consumption across provinces, and there is strong evidence for the “inverted-U” shaped EKC relationship between per capita coal consumption and the GDP per capita. Besides, the GDP per capita corresponding to the peak of coal consumption per capita is estimated to be higher when the spatial effects are fully accounted for.
Rapid industrialization in countries with weak rule-of-law institutions brings costs, including heavy pollution of the air and water. Early on, pollution was seen by most as a good thing, a sign of industrial progress, production, and rising wages and job opportunities.
In Nevil Shute’s novel, Ruined City, a shipbuilding town on the English coast, whose companies had gone bankrupt in the Great Depression, is described to be: “as clean as a sepulcher,” (a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried).
The factories were closed so no more smoke and noise in the air, but also no more jobs and income. Laid-off shipbuilders and others were out of work, out of income, out of hope, and mortality rates soared (in the novel, a hospitalized financier arranges new orders to bring shipbuilding, and the city, back to life).
The 1995-1996 national high school debate topic was similar to this year’s topic:
Resolved: That the United States government should substantially change its foreign policy toward the People’s Republic of China.
Attending an economics conference in Beijing in 1995, I had time between sessions to walk city streets and shopping areas. One street with vendors in small stalls offered books, movies on VHS tape, shivering dogs, and one stall with just a pile of coal. For maybe fifteen minutes I watched shoppers filling bags with coal to cook and heat their nearby Beijing homes.
Most people of Beijing are far wealthier now and incomes higher. Average income in China is approaching $10,000 a year, but in 1995 average income was just $540. People in the cities are far wealthier, but not far from Beijing, households still burn coal to heat their homes. Increasing incomes and expanding access to inexpensive electricity is key to reducing Beijing pollution.
“Beijing’s Plan for Cleaner Heat Leaves Villagers Cold,” (WSJ, Jan. 25, 2017) reports the continued problem of burning coal for home heating in communities near Beijing:
Reducing emissions from heating would be among the most effective ways to limit winter smog besides cleaning up industry… Coal-burning by households is particularly dirty because it often happens without the emissions filtering required in power plants. …
But Ms. Gao, whose husband earns about $500 a month at an auto plant, soon noticed a downside.
“Electric heating has become our family’s biggest expense,” Ms. Gao said. She said she may seek a job to help pay the bill.
Despite electricity subsidies for residential consumers, villagers interviewed about their state-supplied heaters said their overall costs had risen substantially. Several said it costs around $300 to heat their homes for the winter, compared with about $200 with coal.
The income divergence between city and rural families is extreme across China. “Here’s What China’s Middle Classes Really Earn — and Spend,” (Bloomberg News, March 9, 2016) shows in an income chart of China’s 770 million workers, just 19% are middle-income earning $11,733 a year. Another 31% are migrant workers earning an average of just $5,858 a year, and the rest are rural people earning an average of $2,000 (plus a .2% slice of the very rich at $500,000 a year).
China’s migrant workers, the”floating population,” migrated informally (illegally) to cities for factory jobs. They earn more than they could in their rural villages, but Bloomberg reports: “food and clothing make up nearly half their personal spending” which is just $7 a day.
Anything that adds to the cost of electricity pushes poor workers living around Chinese cities to shift to burning coal in their homes for heat.
And this challenge highlights government spending and subsidies for expanding wind and solar power. Electricity from new natural gas and new cleaner coal power plants emit little air pollution (especially compared to families burning coal or wood at home). But both natural gas and new coal plants emit carbon dioxide as they generate electricity (burning natural gas emits about half as much CO2 as burning coal).
“China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020,” (New York Times, Jan. 5, 2017) reports on Chinese government plans for expanding wind and solar power, and also notes problems delivering power to consumers:
…Thursday’s announcement was missing any language on curtailment, or the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar that never finds its way to the country’s power grid. In China, wind power curtailment was 19 percent in the first nine months 2016, Mr. Myllyvirta said, many times higher than in the United States, where curtailment levels are often negligible.
The main reason for curtailment, he said, is that China is plagued by overcapacity in electricity generation and operators of China’s grid often favor electricity generated from coal.
A 2016 report, “China Scales Back Solar, Wind Ambitions as Renewables Cool,” (Bloomberg News, Nov. 7, 2016) noted problems connecting new wind and solar, often at distant locations, to China’s existing grid:
…lowered its solar and wind power targets for 2020, a reflection of how record installations of renewables have overwhelmed the ability of the nation’s grid to absorb the new electricity …
The rapid growth in capacity has left China struggling to integrate power supplies from renewable sources even as the government continues to promote clean energy as an alternative to more polluting fuels like coal and natural gas.
China idled 33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind power last year, up 69 percent from a year earlier, the NEA said in August. Idled capacity at solar farms has also begun to appear, especially in the nation’s northwest, it said.
[Update, see also “It Can Power a Small Nation. But This Wind Farm in China Is Mostly Idle,” New York Times, Jan 15, 2017)]
See also Bjorn Lomborg’s op-ed “A ‘Green Leap Forward’ in China? What a Load of Biomass,” critical of China’s spending on solar and wind energy, even as coal use expands:
It is peculiar—though unsurprising given the sensibilities of Western environmentalists—that those who celebrate China’s “Green Leap Forward” almost always focus on wind and solar technology. By far the largest source of renewable energy used in China is traditional biomass—that is, people burning charcoal, firewood and dung, as China’s poor do to stay warm. Biomass is the biggest source of killer air pollution in the world.
The Chinese government energy policy goals aim to reduce air pollution around Chinese cities, and also to reduce CO2 emissions to address climate change. These goals overlap, but are not the same. Wind farms and solar installations don’t emit air pollution, but neither does less-expensive natural gas combined-cycle power, which can be located closer to cities and customers. New coal power plants emit less air pollution, especially compared to the dense pollution from antiquated coal-fired power and home coal burning.
China’s push to lead the world in wind and solar power combined a push for promoting domestic companies making and exporting solar panels and windmills, with a strategy to appeal to environmental organizations upset that China had become far and away the largest emitter of CO2.
U.S. CO2 emissions have dropped 12% since 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, but China’s CO2 emissions increased significantly over the same time.
Though China’s CO2 emissions are estimated to have fallen 3% in 2015, but China’s Carbon Emissions Report 2015 (Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy Center pdf) notes:
Total carbon emissions in China already equal the emissions from the U.S. and the E.U. combined, however, the per capita emissions are still significantly lower than that of the U.S., but are approaching the average level of the E.U. countries. (p. 1)
The Belfer Center report cover and first pages have images of heavily-polluted Chinese cities, but these show air pollution not CO2 emissions. China’s business and government leaders have long feared that influential environmental organization could join with US and EU labor unions, and protectionist manufacturers associations to enact new tariffs on Chinese exports, including carbon taxes (taxes on CO2 emissions), which would hit Chinese manufactured goods hardest.
Now the new Administration and Republican-controlled Congress are dialing back on CO2 emissions concerns and regulations and at the same time threatening new tariffs on Chinese goods. So China’s strategy of major spending on wind and solar power to address CO2 emissions loses traction as a strategy to persuade environmental groups not to join US and EU protectionists.
China may shift focus to expanding less-expensive electric natural gas power sources to deliver lower-cost electricity to the many still-poor households surrounding China’s cities and factories.
Bagoly mondja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű.
(English version: “Pot calling the kettle black.”
Many other cultures here. )
In “United States Challenges Excessive Chinese Support for Rice, Wheat, and Corn” (September, 2016), the Office of US Trade Representative announced new action against China:
Today, the Obama Administration has launched a new trade enforcement action against the People’s Republic of China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning excessive government support provided for Chinese production of rice, wheat, and corn. [Admin. officials joined] by bipartisan members of Congress in announcing the complaint which challenges China’s use of “market price support” for three key crops (rice, wheat, and corn) in excess of China’s commitments under WTO rules.
The U.S. government also subsidizes US farmers growing and exporting rice, wheat, and corn. Comparing farm subsidies across countries is complex. Iowa plays a key role in each Presidential election cycle because of the early caucuses lead other state primaries. And because corn is big business in Iowa, Presidential candidates usually call for maintaining corn and ethanol subsidies in their Iowa campaign stops.
In 2015 Iowa farmers exported $1.4 billion in corn and other agricultural goods to China and Iowa exports have increased 257% since 2006.
According to an “Agricultural Subsidies” (October 7, 2016 ) on Downsizing Government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spends an average of $25 billion a year on eight major farm subsidy programs. The amount varies depending on farm prices.
Reasons to end US farm subsidies are listed and discussed in the article, and number 4 should be of particular interest to students debating US/China policy reform:
1. Subsidies Redistribute Wealth Upwards.
2. Subsidies Damage the Economy.
3. Subsidies Are Prone to Scandal.
4. Subsidies Undermine U.S. Trade Relations.
5. Subsidies Harm the Environment.
6. Agriculture Would Thrive without Subsidies.
Crop prices fell in 2016 and Reuters reports “USDA to pay farmers more than $7 billion due to low crop prices,” (October 4, 2016). Though USDA and farm groups argue the federal insurance subsidies help provide just a “safety net” for farmers when prices fall, they encourage farmers to expand production, since they can expect to make money whether prices at harvest time are high or low (selling at market prices or at government-subsidized insured prices).
Farm exports to China in 2015 were over $20 billion in 2015, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service:
U.S. agricultural exports to China have grown more than 200 percent over the past decade and China was the United States’ second-largest international market in 2015. U.S. farm and food exports to China totaled more than $20.2 billion in 2015, led by soybeans, coarse grains, distillers’ grains, hides and skins, and cotton.
So… what if both the US government and the Chinese government worked together to reduce or eliminate subsidies to farmers. US subsidies allow farmers to export corn, wheat, and other subsidized crops to other countries at artificially low prices. Subsidies also cost domestic taxpayers billions, and the money mostly goes to wealthy farmers. Chinese government farm subsidies similarly distort world markets and cost Chinese taxpayers billions.
US relations with China may be most influenced by Terry Branstad, the Trump Administration’s USDA nominee. According to the Des Moines Register (December 10, 2016):
Iowa’s long-serving governor earned selection as U.S. ambassador to China by virtue of his long-standing personal ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping, which stretch back three decades. But how far does friendship go in managing relations between the world’s two most powerful countries? Branstad will soon find out in his new role.
Though the Des Moines Register mostly discusses US/China geopolitical issues and the long personal relationship between Terry Branstad and Chinese President Xi Jinping, reducing and reforming farm subsidies would help rationalize commodity farm production in US and China, reduce environmental harms, and reduce financial burdens to taxpayers in both countries.
A 2013 NCPA study “How U.S. Agricultural Subsidies Harm the Environment, Taxpayers and the Poor,” though not discussing China directly, focuses on environmental harms encouraged by US farm subsidies, and concludes:
Agricultural subsidies distort market prices and interfere with trade, causing deleterious distortions that adversely affect poor famers in developing countries and burden U.S. taxpayers. Moreover, in some cases agricultural subsidies can lead to environmental degradation. Reducing agricultural subsidies has the potential to help developing countries, the environment and taxpayers.
The National Interest offers an “end of the world as we know it” scenario for a potential Trump Administration/China clash: “$5 Trillion Meltdown: What If China Shuts Down the South China Sea?” (July 16, 2016) Rex Tillerson’s Senate confirmation remarks, reported in “Rex Tillerson’s South China Sea Remarks Foreshadow Possible Foreign Policy Crisis” (New York Times, January 12, 2017) called for the US to get tough with China’s bases on South China Sea islands.
Mr. Tillerson told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that China’s multibillion-dollar island-building campaign in the oil-and-gas rich sea was illegal and “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.”
“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops,” Mr. Tillerson told the senators. “And second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”
But concern about oil and gas under the South China Sea is misguided. The key South China Sea issues are shipping and fishing. Future oil and gas should be considered a distant third.
Since 2014, billions of dollars have been lost by around the world in deep sea oil and gas projects (“15 [oil] companies lost $21.7 billion in 2014“). Exploration and drilling projects started before mid-2014 expected $75 to $100 a barrel oil and similarly high natural gas prices. Oil was $114 a barrel in June, 2014, but dropped below $50 and has stayed in the $40-$60 range since.
Surging oil from US shale drilling, increased oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Russia, as well as in returning Iran, all have production costs well below future undersea oil. Even without political risks, oil from under the South China Sea is less and less likely or relevant. Before the shale boom, the Chinese government believed oil shortages a key national defense issue. But that was ten years ago, when no one expected vast new oil and gas production from horizontal drilling through U.S. shale deposits.
Shale has another advantage over undersea drilling: fast and lower start-up costs. A proposed project to discover and drill oil or natural gas from under the South China Sea would cost billions and take perhaps a decade to bring oil to market. Advocates for such a project need the money now but won’t have revenue for ten years. New shale well proposals can raise funds and start drilling in a few months. Plus hundreds of already drilled wells are capped and just waiting for higher oil prices (see: “Hoping for a Price Surge, Oil Companies Keep Wells in Reserve” (New York Times, December 25, 2015).
Maybe some day oil and natural gas from the new “Saudi Arabia” under the South China Sea will be able to compete in world markets, but that day seems far, far in the future.
Shipping and South China Sea fisheries though, are still very important. China needs the sea lanes to stay open for its imports and exports. The National Interest story (above), suggests China could block the sea lanes, forcing expensive diversion for energy and other shipping headed for Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan:
…two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s, and 80 percent of China’s crude oil imports flow through the South China Sea.
However, any Chinese action that threatens the South Korean, Taiwanese, or Japanese economy also threatens Chinese workers and companies. See, for example, “A bridge over troubled waters: Taiwan, Japan and South Korea employ huge numbers of mainland Chinese” (The Economist, November 8th 2014):
88,000 firms from Taiwan employ 15.6m Chinese workers. About 11m are employed at 23,000 Japanese firms or their suppliers. Throw in 2m more workers for South Korean enterprises, and companies from around the troubled East China Sea have approaching 30m Chinese on their payrolls.
Tens of millions more in China work for suppliers to firms based in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Plus Chinese firms are investing heavily in South Korea. See, for example: “China shovels investment into South Korea — entertainment, real estate big takers” (Asia Times, April 20, 2016).
Strong economic ties between China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan serve as a counterbalance to nationalistic urges and a history of conflicts. Chinese action to restrict shipping over the South China Sea would be economically and politically destabilizing, and I think as unlikely as major oil and gas production from under the South China Sea.
But under these shipping lanes are the vast fisheries, which have collapsed due to overfishing. The good news is that South China Seas fisheries can be restored drawing from successful fisheries restoration and management in New Zealand, Australia, and other world fisheries.
“Follow the Fish: Considering Options in the South China Sea,” (Marine Awareness Project, November 7, 2016), explains the role of regional fisheries agreements to complement the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of international law:
The second, and less-noticed, level is the regional one—that is, formulating and implementing regionally agreed-upon standards outside the established EEZ or territorial sea boundaries of littoral states. After all, fish are the only sovereign resources that stubbornly move between and among jurisdictions. To ensure that migrating species are not fished down to zero in regional high seas (so that there will be some fish left to swim into EEZs), UNCLOS encourages signatories to develop management measures in areas beyond an EEZ’s jurisdiction.
Wall Street Journal overview (July 19, 2016): “5 Things About Fishing in the South China Sea“:
• Fish stocks in the South China Sea have fallen 70% to 95% from 1950s levels,
• Fish caught in the South China Sea account for about 12% of the global annual catch.
• Chinese fishing fleets significantly outnumber those from other claimant countries in the South China Sea
• An average person in Southeast Asia and China consumes about 24.2 kilograms of fish a year… The average annual consumption of seafood in the U.S. was just 6.5 kilograms in 2012
• The ruling from the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration effectively demolished China’s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea.
However, regional fisheries agreements based on top-down planning lack the institutional strength of quota-based systems like catch shares or TURFs.
Catch shares, mentioned above, offer an alternative path to restore and manage endangered fisheries. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Fisheries Solutions Center reports:
As of 2013, nearly 200 rights-based management programs exist worldwide, affecting more than 500 different species in 40 countries.
Debaters of the ocean policy topic should be familiar with EDF and the success of catch shares systems in restoring fisheries.
Shiyin assesses fisheries laws and policies and their implementations in Asian countries, particularly in China, and analyzes the possibility of using market-based approaches to achieve sustainability. She helps the Oceans Program launch fishing rights programs in China to reverse the decline of fish stocks and restore marine biodiversity.
For more on catch shares, see, “Catch Shares Around the World” (PERC), reporting on EDF report:
The Environmental Defense Fund has published a map of all catch share programs around the world. According to the infographic (click to enlarge), as of 2010 there were 275 catch share programs in effect worldwide, affecting 850 different species.
New Zealand and Australia lead the world in rights-based fisheries, with 117 and 111 species under catch share management respectively. Canada, Chile, and the United States are also among the top five in species protected. Perhaps surprisingly, rights-based fisheries exist in countries ranging from Namibia (8 species) to Papua New Guinea (13 species). See the accompanying searchable database of catch share systems around the world.
This Izzit.org video, Sustainable Oceans & Seas reviews the history and economic principles behind New Zealand’s recovery from collapsed fisheries 30 years ago. How to implement similar reforms to the contested South China Sea is a challenge.
Affirmative Case: Repeal Section 421 Tariffs on Chinese Imports
Fact 1: Section 421 Tariffs Discriminate Against Chinese Imports
Fact 2: Section 421 Tariffs Intended to be Temporary
Fact 3: Section 421 Tariffs Remain Authorized by Congress
Impact 1: Lower Evidentiary Standards Decrease Presidential Accountability
Impact 2: Lower Evidentiary Standards Enable Ineffective Tariffs
Plan: Repeal Section 421 Tariff Authorization
— See case pdf with evidence at link:
“Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.”
There is no more important bilateral relationship than that between the United States and China. Yet the Congressional Research Service warns that ties have “become increasingly complex and often fraught with tension.” Relations appear likely to become even more fractious with the election of Donald Trump as president. Every four years the People’s Republic of China (PRC) becomes a presidential election issue, but Americans deserve a better explanation of the importance of U.S.-China political and economic relations than candidates’ sound-bytes.
The Complicated Relationship with China. China is an emerging great power and perhaps eventual superpower that is challenging Washington in several key areas. The economic benefits for the United States of its relationship with China seem obvious, but many Americans wonder if the difficulties outweigh the benefits.
The PRC possesses the world’s second largest economy and has become both commercial partner and competitor with the United States. Trade between the two nations is beneficial because of comparative advantage; that is, each country is relatively better at producing some items than the other. This economic concept is the foundation for trade throughout history.
However, international commerce today is about politics as well as economics. Trade and investment disputes have multiplied between the two governments while China remains the fount of extensive cyber-espionage targeting U.S. business secrets. Continuing the relationship depends on the ability of the two governments to work through these often contentious disputes.
– See more at: http://www.ncpa.org/pub/economics-of-the-2016-2017-debate-topic-us-relations-with-china-mixing-cooperation-with-competition#sthash.X9Qp2bar.dpuf
Public health concerns can restrict individual liberty. Typhoid Mary lost her liberty and freedom of association due to a microbe she carried, even though she was in good health. Similarly, Chinese companies raising seafood safe for U.S. consumers are creating a public health crisis: microbes resistant to antibiotics.
“How Antibiotic-Tainted Seafood From China Ends Up on Your Table,” (BloombergBusinessweek, December 15, 2016), describes the traditional “sustainable” Chinese use of animal waste to feed fish. Since the beginning of agriculture, animal waste has fertilized crops (it’s the organic way!). But the addition of antibiotics to boost animal size and disease resistance shifts the microbe ecosystem in animal waste. Some microbes gain resistance to antibiotics, and are then flushed into Chinese fish ponds, adding antibiotic resistance to microbes in fish later shipped (or transshipped) to the U.S..
The individual fish are okay to eat, but the antibiotic microbes migrate from Chinese pigs to fish to U.S. consumers, ecosystems, and hospitals.
In “China tackles antimicrobial resistance,” (Science, Aug. 31, 2016), the costs and source of the problem reported:
According to a May report from the Wellcome Trust in London, antimicrobial resistance in China could cause 1 million premature deaths annually by 2050 and cost the country $20 trillion. Antibiotics are currently widely available without prescriptions in China for both human and livestock use. The country accounts for half the world’s annual antimicrobial drug consumption. “Antimicrobial resistance is a problem created by human behavior—largely through the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in health care, as well as in animal husbandry,”
The Science article reports the Chinese government is taking the problem seriously and taking steps:
As part of a national action plan unveiled on 26 August, the Chinese central government said that it would mobilize the efforts of 14 ministries and departments including health, food and drugs, and agriculture. By 2020, the government aims to develop new antimicrobials, make sales of the drugs by prescription only, ramp up surveillance of human and veterinary usage, and increase training and education for both medical professionals and consumers on their proper use.
However, political pronouncements may or may not lead to actual reforms. Economists focus on incentives (economics is mostly about incentives, the rest is commentary). So what incentives will the announced Chinese “national action plan” create? It’s unclear. The size and scope of the problems are discussed in detail in “How Antibiotic-Tainted Seafood From China Ends Up on Your Table“:
…Livestock pens are scattered among the thousands of seafood farms that form the heart of the [China’s] aquaculture industry, the largest in the world.
Beside one of those fish farms near Zhaoqing…a farmhand … hoses down the cement floor of a piggery where white and roan hogs sniff and snort. The dirty water from the pens flows into a metal pipe, which empties directly into a pond shared by dozens of geese. As the yellowish-brown water splashes from the pipe, tilapia flap and jump, hungry for an afternoon feeding.
Chinese agriculture has thrived for thousands of years on this kind of recycling—the nutrients that fatten the pigs and geese also feed the fish. But the introduction of antibiotics into animal feed has transformed ecological efficiency into a threat to global public health.
Antibiotics banned for the U.S. food industry and essential for world health have been overused in China’s “sustainable” animal waste to fish fertilizing system:
At another farm, in Jiangmen, a farmer scatters a scoop of grain to rouse her slumbering swine, penned on the edge of a pond with 20,000 Mandarin fish. The feed contains three kinds of antibiotics, including colistin, which in humans is considered an antibiotic of last resort. Colistin is banned for swine use in the U.S., but until November, when the Chinese government finally clamped down, it was used extensively in animal feed in China. Vials and containers for nine other antibiotics lie around the 20-sow piggery… Seven of those drugs have been deemed critically important for human medicine by the World Health Organization.
The Bloomberg article also reports that tens of millions of tons of Chinese fish are likely transhipped through Malaysia and other countries, relying on loose or fraudulent paperwork on country of origin, and banned Chinese seafood still makes it to the U.S.:
But antibiotic-contaminated seafood keeps turning up at U.S. ports, as well as in restaurants and grocery stores. That’s because the distribution networks that move the seafood around the world are often as murky as the waters in which the fish are raised.
See also “U.S. seafood import restriction presents opportunity and risk,” (Science, December 16, 2016), however these new NOAA regulations are related to mammal protection and bycatch, rather than fish farming and antibiotic abuse.
“New DNA results answer consumers’ demand for trust in seafood,” (Phys.org, March 15, 2016) reports:
Two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. seafood consumers say they want to know that their fish can be traced back to a known and trusted source, with 58 percent saying they look to ecolabels as a trusted source of information. Globally, 55 percent doubt that the seafood they consume is what it says on the package. These findings are from the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) latest survey of more than 16,000 seafood consumers across 21 countries.
The article notes both that the U.S. is the world’s largest seafood importer, and that much of the imported seafood is mislabeled for consumers:
Oceana’s nationwide survey in 2013 found one-third (33 percent) of U.S. seafood samples genetically analyzed were mislabeled.
The Marine Stewardship Council documents seafood origin and sustainability for ocean-caught fish:
Brian Perkins, MSC Regional Director—Americas, said, “The MSC’s DNA results prove you can trust that seafood sold with the blue MSC ecolabel really is what the package says it is and can be traced from ocean to plate. Last month, the U.S. government announced proposed rules that would require tracking to combat illegal fishing and fraud. Many businesses are left wondering whether they’re selling seafood that was produced legally and sustainably. MSC certification means consumers and businesses can be confident that MSC ecolabeled fish has been caught legally and can be traced back to a sustainable source.”
The Marine Stewardship Council 2015 Annual Report has numerous references to China seafood certification:
The MSC’s program director in China, Dr An Yan, was named the most influential figure in the Chinese seafood industry, in a 2016 survey of hundreds of seafood executives in China. The number one spot went to Ivy Wang, chief China representative at the Atlantic Canada Business Network, for “putting Canadian lobster on so many Chinese plates” – 97% of Canadian lobster is MSC certified.
More focused on fish farming certification is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council: “ASC announces partnership for development in China” (September 14, 2016):
The agreement will accelerate the growth of the ASC programme in China. Tao Ran has been contracted to lead the strategy implementation and to expand the adoption of ASC farm standards. The firm’s aquaculture staff will also work seamlessly with the ASC team to promote the availability of ASC certified seafood for consumers within China, and in the many countries that buy aquaculture products from China.
This innovative partnership will allow ASC to seize the historical opportunity of the Chinese government’s policy for a “market-oriented mode” in economic development. The agreement includes a long-term strategy to support the development, improvement and adaptation of ASC standards and engage and assist ASC Chain of Custody (CoC) certified companies. The agency will play a key role in both building new partnerships and strengthening existing ties with the Chinese seafood industry, affiliated associations, NGOs and key government agencies…
Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “has the primary federal responsibility for safety of seafood products in the U.S.” and other federal agencies are involved, private seafood certification systems are a popular alternative. For details, see presentation “U.S. Aquaculture Regulations: A
Comparison with Seafood Certification Schemes,” (November 13, 2013), and FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 553: “Private standards and certification in fisheries and aquaculture” (FAO, 2011):
Private standards and related certification schemes are becoming significant features of international fish trade and marketing. They have emerged in areas where there is a perception that public regulatory frameworks are not achieving the desired outcomes, such as sustainability and responsible fisheries management. Their use is also becoming more common in efforts to ensure food safety, quality and environmental sustainability in the growing aquaculture industry.
Apart from U.S. regulatory or NGO certification advances, new research may address the global health problem of microbes gaining antibiotic resistance. In “Does this 25 year-old hold the key to winning the war against superbugs?,” (The Telegraph, September 25, 2016):
“We’ve discovered that [the polymers] actually target the bacteria and kill it in multiple ways,” says Lam, who leads a half-a-dozen-strong research team. “One method is by physically disrupting or breaking apart the cell wall of the bacteria. This creates a lot of stress on the bacteria and causes it to start killing itself.”
Her research, published this month in the prestigious journal, Nature Microbiology, has already been hailed by scientists as a breakthrough that could change the face of modern medicine.
Scope of public health danger is briefly (and breathlessly) outlined in a short video embedded in Telegraph article:
Superbugs, the drug-resistant infections, are set to kill over 10 million people across the world by 2050.
Debaters can address a major source of drug-resistant bacteria at their source in agriculture and aquaculture practices in China. New Chinese government regulations may or may not reform the industry. Restrictions on antibiotic use in Chinese fish farms exporting to the U.S. would have a more immediate economic impact. Improving US/China engagement on addressing overuse of antibiotics could save millions of lives over the coming decades.
In April, 2016 China’s government launched a new effort to restrict and control its society. “Clampdown in China Restricts 7,000 Foreign Organizations,” (New York Times, April 28, 2016) begins:
China took a major step on Thursday in President Xi Jinping’s drive to impose greater control and limit Western influences on Chinese society, as it passed a new law restricting the work of foreign organizations and their local partners, mainly through police supervision.
The 7,000 foreign NGOs have until the end of the year to take steps required by the new law, but these steps were unclear until this week.
“China Unveils List of Activities Permitted for Foreign Nonprofits, ” (Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2016) reports the latest developments:
BEIJING—After months of uncertainty for foreign nonprofits, China released a list of activities the groups will be allowed to pursue under a controversial new law, with a surprising number of activities falling in potentially sensitive areas such as legal services.
Civil society institution are central to US/China engagement, and include international debate societies, educational associations, and thousands of international environmental, business, religious, and cultural associations.
These non-government organizations (NGOs), along with tens of thousands of international businesses operating in China, build personal and cultural connections between people and societies that are fully or partially independent of governments.
Rotary Clubs meet weekly in communities around the world, including China. Rotary China explains:
Rotary is a global movement of business and community leaders from different walks of life – who come together to have fun, network and do good in our communities. …
Rotary encourages like-minded business and community leaders to share ideas, about how to build our clubs and expand our service project impact.
Rotary has just 15 chartered clubs in China. Yet there are over 100 Rotary Clubs in Washington State and 15 clubs in or within 100 miles of Bucharest, Romania.
Another business and community service organization, the Lions Club, has a long history in China, and by 2015 “there were 26,000 members in 758 clubs.”
Lions Clubs of China were shut down by the communist government in 1949, but returned in 2002, leading with a signature international program to restore eyesight, SightFirst.
SightFirst is working with its partners in China to increase low-vision services, including pilot centers in Liaoning and Guangdong provinces, to assess if blinding trachoma is a public health problem in China. SightFirst in China is also working to develop a regional training program model in Liaoning Province that better links eye care services in urban areas to those in rural areas.
With these spectacular results, the formation of new Lions clubs in China was not long in coming. In 2002, with the full support and endorsement of the Chinese government, Lions Clubs International issued charters to new clubs in Guangdong and Shenzhen with about 60 members each. Lions have grown rapidly in China. By 2015, there were 26,000 members in 758 clubs, ranking China among Lions’ fastest growing regions worldwide.
Kiwanis International, the third major business service organization, similarly leads an international health initiative:
Ganzu, China: For the past 10 years, salt manufacturers and health workers such as Dr. Ray Yip have worked together to solve the problem of iodine deficiency in China. Thanks to support from UNICEF and Kiwanis International, 95 percent of the population has access to iodized salt.
Kiwanis International also runs a Key Clubs program for high school students:
Key Club is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. What makes Key Club so successful is the fact that it is a student-led organization
We’re excited to announce a new Key Club nation: China! This takes our “international status” to a whopping 33 countries!The first chartered Key Club in China, which is located in Nanjing, already has more than 90 members!
So far, the club has organized several activities, such as charity fundraisers and performances, and tutors English to children from low-income families.
Apart from service clubs are educational organizations, like China high school debate supporter Sunrise International Education, whose goals are:
Sunrise is a social enterprise dedicated to reforming global education, in middle schools, high schools and universities, through experiential learning. Founded by two American education entrepreneurs in 2011, Sunrise pioneered an innovative model of student engagement, cultivating grassroots student communities and creating a bridge between them and institutions worldwide.
The National High School Debate League of China (NHSDLC) is a Sunrise program offering experiential learning:
The NHSDLC is a project of Sunrise International Education, a social enterprise dedicated to promoting American style extra-curricular education and cross cultural exchange in China and East Asia. Sunrise International Education also organizes the Association for Global Debate, the China Youth Business League, Yale Model UN China and InterPLAY China. [More links at website.]
The National High School Debate League of China (NHSDLC), for example lists its civil society activities:
We organise over 75 tournaments a year in cities all over China with 10,000 students competing. Our regionals vary in size from around one hundred students in smaller cities to more than 300 in the largest cities. The best students from each city qualify to compete at our yearly National Championship in Beijing; this year’s Championship had over 400 students participating, making it the largest ever in China
So… here is hoping that high school debate societies continue to flourish in China, along hundreds of other international education, and business service clubs, and associations.