Every so often someone produces an op-ed or article with a proposal to solve this or that problem in China. This op-ed by Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho at the New York Times, proposing a carbon tax to bring China’s air pollution problems under control, is a good example:
While a carbon tax cannot substitute for a comprehensive air quality strategy — including expanded support for atmospheric sciences — it would be a powerful jump-start in the right direction.
This approach offers a real chance for China to limit both carbon emissions and air pollution at little cost to economic growth, all in one relatively straightforward policy. It may be an opportunity that nobody, in or out of China, can afford to ignore.
I’m sure that this proposal is well-intentioned. However, it ignores the one thing that China needs most to cope with its most serious problems: a robust system of civil law. I could produce a list of proposals as long as the Great Wall and without that every one of them would be useless.
China’s laws respecting intellectual property are more restrictive than ours and even more widely ignored because they can only be enforced with the cooperation of the Chinese Communist Party and that will only be forthcoming if it’s in the party’s interests.
It can hardly be denied that air, water, and soil pollution in China have reached dangerous proportions. Solutions will elude the Chinese until China has the institutions to support them.