Seymour and Audrey Ronning Topping describe their 1971 interview with China’s premier Zhou En-Lai. It was the first interview that he gave to American correspondents in decades. Audrey Ronning Topping met premier Zhou through her father Chester Ronning, Canada’s first ambassador to China who was a close friend of premier Zhou. When Audrey met Zhou in 1971, he said that China’s greatest challenge in the future will be pollution.
Thirty of China’s thirty-two largest cities and four hundred of its six hundred largest municipalities face serious water shortages and deterioration of water quality. In order to produce one unit of GDP, China uses seven to fifteen times more water than OECD countries. Water prices in China do not reflect the reality of supply and demand. China’s average water price is 70% to 80% below water prices in countries with no water shortage.
Since China’s economic reform programs began, its rapid economic growth has lifted over five hundred million people out of poverty. This accomplishment has been achieved at the price of great risk to national and regional environmental stability threatening the well-being of those living in damaged areas. While China has some of the most stringent and progressive environmental legislation in the world, their effectiveness is hampered by lax enforcement. Professor Hardiman highlights the challenges and opportunities for China as it faces the economic-environmental conundrum