It is not exactly news to people who follow Chinese affairs closely that there are frequent protests in China, often turning violent with cars and buildings burned, over environmental conditions. Some years ago I noted the potential irony that rising environmental sentiment in China might become an engine for weakening state power and strengthening the rule of law, as opposed to here and in Europe, where environmentalism is about increasing state power more than anything else.
So it is with some amusement this morning that I see the story in the Wall Street Journal today about how the latest violent protest in China was against a solar power manufacturing company. (See the photos here: this looks like a serious, for-real protest.) Wait—I thought solar power was clean and green? You mean making solar panels involves pollution? Who knew? Nobody tell Al Gore or the Sierra Club.
Then, in this story in The Hill today about the Solyndra fallout, there is this wonderful little nugget:
“The biggest hurdle for U.S. [solar] manufacturers is that they have to compete with these giant Chinese companies that have access to huge amounts of capital, cheaper labor and more relaxed environmental policies,” Shiao said.
Wait—what was that last bit: “more relaxed environmental policies” in China? But Tom Friedman keeps telling me that the Chinese are so much more enlightened than we are. It’s enough to get a headache. Oh, wait, it’s the whine from that huge wind turbine down the street that is giving me the headache.