Mao’s Little Red River: China’s Latest Pollution Disaster Turns River Red

Screen shot YouTube
Screen shot YouTube
For the residents of Zhejiang, the sight was unnerving to say the least. The river that they regularly fish in had turned blood red overnight. It is the latest example of China’s horrific pollution problems. On this occasion, however, the results were more than evident to the eyes and noses of the residents.

The river was was fine at 5 am and then residents smelled a strange odor and saw that the river was now a deep red. It is clear that someone dumped industrial waste in the river in hopes that the expected monsoon rains would wash them down river. The rains however were delayed. There is a paper manufacturer, a food coloring company and clothing-maker upstream that might be a logical place to start.

China continues to struggle with not just legal and political issues in dealing with pollution but also a cultural and social problem. While there are brave environmentalists who have been beaten and jailed for raising pollution issues, many Chinese are clearly not responsive to such arguments ranging from pollution abatement to food safety.

39 thoughts on “Mao’s Little Red River: China’s Latest Pollution Disaster Turns River Red”

  1. On a related note, an article in the LA Times today highlighted the loose oversight of the dumping of waste generated by fracking in North Dakota.

  2. Gary T

    No, that’s unfettered industrial pollution for ya.
    Capitalism has nothing to do with it.

    Folks: For all of you who have been throwing the term “Intellectually Dishonest” around, this is what it looks like, right there in Gary’s comment.

    As you can see, intellect has little to do with it, it’s really about the dishonesty; the willful denial of what is plainly, transparently, and painfully obvious. Be careful not to confuse this practice with twisted logic.

    Print his comment out and keep it handy. Next time you feel tempted to accuse someone of Intellectual Dishonesty, stop and take a moment to compare that person’s comment to Gary’s here. If your suspect comment flies in the face of the facts like Gary’s, you can be sure you’ve got an instance of genuine Intellectual Dishonesty.

  3. LTMG-thank you for writing that so I didn’t have to. There is a lot of transition going on in China on many, many levels. There are factions trying to move it toward capitalism (which may or may not resemble our capitalism) and other factions trying to hold on to the absolute power once enjoyed by government/party leaders. Other factions are just working to influence those in power in order to get their hands on as much wealth as they can and then bail.

  4. No, that’s unfettered industrial pollution for ya.
    Capitalism has nothing to do with it.

  5. @Karen S. China is not communist any longer. Very definitely socialist, though. There is no dictator on the scale that Mao was. There is a cadre, a junta, if you will, of about a dozen people who call the shots. Not one of these can act independently without serious risk of being deposed.

    @Annie is partially right about “unfettered Capitalism”. Some business owners or CEOs who think they can get away with acting unethically or irresponsibly, often will. There are enough laws in China, but enforcement can be sharply selective.

    Society has two classes. First, government officials and those closely connected to them. These people have acted and can act with a high degree of impunity, though that is changing. Second, everybody else. CEOs running state owned enterprises are under huge pressure to be or become profitable. The CEOs are motivated to cut corners, like polluting rivers, when they can. Enforcement is weak because the government will not attack its own cash cows.

    Regarding individual freedom, that is variable. If one’s actions do not attack or undermine the government or the harmony in society, one is generally free to act. During my seven years living and working in China, within firm boundaries I felt I had tremendous individual freedom.

    China is a very complex place. The situation there cannot be effectively distilled to a few paragraphs or even a shelf full of scholarly books. Thus, my comment here is but a pinpoint of light in a vast universe.

    China is best experienced in situ for years, not merely visited, not read about, not studied from afar.

  6. It is fine and dandy to dump on the Chinese for their environmental problems. But we should recognize our part. We get cheap Chinese-made products exactly because the Chinese are willing to forgo tacking on the external costs of environmental degradation to the means of production.

    Are we willing to accept any responsibility? Or is it just easier to laugh at the bargains we get shopping at Walmart priced at the expense of the Chinese environment, instead of buying American, or buying from socially/environmentally-responsible corporations?

  7. Actually Karen and Nick,
    There is a very large capitalistic component in China. The state does not own everything.

  8. SWM, Yes it is. And this crony capitalism is tough to compete w/. They use their military/intelligence apparatus to steal secrets from other countries. That may be the next step for the NSA, if not so already. I have said here many times, that incredibly valuable information is being used in ways we have no idea @ this point. Govt. employees can be bought, and much more cheaply than people would think.

  9. Annie:

    “That’s unfettered Capitalism for ya.”

    Wow. That shows such a shocking lack of information about Communist China. The government owns everything, citizens have few rights, and this is the outcome.

    That’s unfettered Communism for ya.

  10. Knowing China’s history, I doubt the river was really “fine” before. China and Russia have horrifying pollution. I’ve read articles about toxic cesspools that children play in. But, that’s pretty typical for Communist or Socialist countries. Not the “nanny state” socialism but true government socialism, of course. When the government owns everything, individual citizens have fewer rights. The government is not answerable to them, and these are the consequences.

  11. Good for Nixon for starting the EPA. He is certainly to the left of these present day tea party libertarian republicans that want to dismantle government. What they practice in China is referred to as “crony capitalism”.

  12. SWM, You show a fundamental lack of economics. In countries like China and Russia you have the government owning and controlling the companies. It is one huge entity. It is not capitalism. That’s why you have the pollution you see here, Chernoble, etc. While our system is not perfect, and the lines are sometimes blurred, there is a distinct separation between govt. and business. Business does corrupt our govt. but they are separate. There is no EPA in China or Russia. By the way, Nixon started the EPA.

  13. Confucius say: If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.

    What a shame. That river is red as wine, and I mean Red, Red Wine Live. Makes me forget something.

  14. Annie, Yep. Didn’t Rick Perry say we needed to get rid of the EPA?

  15. We already have China’s cultural and social problems, thanks, in part, to illegal immigration that is out of control. More pollution is next.

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