When pollution's not the priority

Haze cloaks the skyline in central Beijing today.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: Air quality in China is getting really bad. A new report estimates 20 million Chinese will get a respiratory disease every year. And by 2020, air pollution will cause 600,000 premature deaths. Muir Dickey is a reporter with the Financial Times. He joins us now. Muir how difficult will it be for the Chinese government to reverse this situation.

Muir Dickey: Well it seems to me in China, I think we have two trends: One is that in a number of areas the controls on pollution have actually improved and it's not just rhetoric. But at the same time we have an even stronger trend which is the very rapid industrialization of China. And also the proliferation new forms of transport such as private cars. The Chinese government essentially has made economic growth its overriding priority now for 20 years and in doing so it's unleashed very powerful forces. It's also the case that the environmental protection agency in the government is much less powerful than other arms of the government.

Krizner: How much of a public relations nightmare is this for the Chinese as they look to hosting the Olympic Games?

Dickey: Well it's clearly becoming something that they're worried about, but when it comes to the Olympics I think people in Beijing are expecting a very special effort to make sure that during that short period of the Games, the air in Beijing is much clearer than it is normally in summer and there is a widespread expectation that companies will be ordered to cease production over that period and cars will be taken off the roads to improve the air for that moment.

Krizner: Muir Dickey of the Financial Times, thanks very much for speaking with us.

Dickey: A pleasure.

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