As environmental pollution in China continues to worsen, the state’s environment protection minister, Zhou Shengxian admitted in an interview with state media on Tuesday that his own department was one of “the four major embarrassing departments in the world.”
Zhou pointed out inefficiencies in his department, such as having overlapping functions. “Water and land pollution is not managed by the same department, same with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide pollution.”
Zhou then said, “I heard there are four major embarrassing departments in the world and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is one of them.”
His comment comes ahead of mounting evidence that pollution is worsening in China. A recent study revealed that air pollution in northern China has cut off life expectancy by an average of 5.5 years for those who live in the region.
Still, Zhou stuck to the Party line, arguing that if the state “does not persevere with ‘scientific development,’ then development would turn a healthy person into a sick person.” “Scientific development” is a slogan of former Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Jintao, an ideology meaning the state can achieve sustainable development through tested methods of governance that allow for both economic growth and “social stability,” code for continued communist rule.
On the same day, a magazine offshoot of the state newspaper People’s Daily published a report where an official said that if the regime continues to emphasize GDP growth at the expense of the environment, the North China plain will disappear after 30 years.
Yang Weimin, deputy director of the coordinating office of the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, a committee in charge of devising the state’s economic policies, told the magazine that if the government does not take action soon to prevent desertification of the area, the fertile plain may disappear completely.
Netizens were critical of Zhou and his department for failing to alleviate China’s environmental problems. On Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, “Xue Man Zi,” a popular blogger with over 11 million followers, posted: “I have never heard you [Zhou] or the Ministry of Environmental Protection apologize to the Chinese people. Don’t give us empty talk. Air, soil, and water pollution in China has reached its most dangerous moment, we cannot watch and do nothing anymore as people are being poisoned!”