Daniel Meissner continues his observations from China
Where does China get the electricity? Tens of thousands of high rise buildings house Guangzhou’s 13 million people. Every family has an apartment loaded with electric appliances, from the essential water boilers, refrigerators, and air conditioners, to water heaters, hot plates, televisions, clothes washers, rice cookers, microwaves, drinking water coolers/heaters, computers, and rechargeable I-pods, tablets and cell phones. The cities are lit like Los Vegas with hundreds of skyscrapers radiating color (in addition to office lighting), huge televisions beaming advertisements, trees hung with colored lights, and incalculable numbers of neon signs and billboards. Energy conservation does not seem to be a topic of concern.
Ironically, pollution is an issue. One afternoon a couple weeks ago, I was gazing out the window of my daughter’s apartment in Shenzhen at the beautiful view of the harbor and distant mountains of Hong Kong. In the matter of an hour or two, however, first the distant mountains disappeared, then the intermediate lights of the city, and finally the apartment towers across the bay. A deep brown smog had enveloped the entire region. Some of the pollution was certainly due to the rising number of cars already clogging the new highway systems, and some due to the tremendous volume of manufacturing that drives the economy of this region. Certainly, however, a good portion of that brown haze was due to coal-produced electricity.
A billion-plus people in China can’t have it all. Like Americans, they want the conveniences of a modern life, from cell phones to cars, with everything in between. They want to celebrate their success with glitzy cities and conspicuous consumption.
But they also want to provide the best life possible for their one child. Such opposing objectives will require Chinese to prioritize, attain some consensus, and then advocate for change. Very soon.