Cablegate: Guizhou Province: Green Initiatives Belie Its Conservative

DE RUEHCN #0277/01 3341719
R 301719Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


CHENGDU 00000277 001.2 OF 004

1. (U) This cable contains sensitive but unclassified
information - not for distribution on the Internet.

2. (SBU) Summary: Southwest China's Guizhou Province, an early
adopter of Beijing's relatively new "Ecological Culture" policy,
has become a leader on some environmental issues. Guizhou
established China's first environmental court, claims to foster
a greater role for civil society in environmental issues, and
has its own "Cities with an Ecological Culture" initiative.
Officials claim Guizhou has aggressive policies addressing
biodiversity, wastewater, and solid waste, and credit frequent
interactions with U.S. government agencies and the International
Crane Foundation, a U.S. NGO, as instrumental to their success.
End Summary.

Guizhou: Embracing "Ecological Culture"


3. (SBU) Introduction: The enormous environmental damage
wrought by 30 years of overemphasis on GDP growth has forced
Beijing to shift its focus to environmentally-balanced growth,
Qu Liya, deputy director of the Guizhou Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), told Consul General recently in the provincial
capital of Guiyang. [Note: The "Ecological Culture" (shengtai
wenming; often translated as "Ecological Civilization") concept
became part of Party doctrine at the 17th Congress of the
Chinese Communist Party held in 2007. End note.] "Ecological
Culture" is part of China's broader "Scientific Development"
[kexue fazhan] strategy, Qu explained. While environmental
strategy is crafted in Beijing, provinces have considerable
latitude in its implementation, she said. (Comment: Although
provincial government bureaus have two masters, the head of
their counterpart agency in Beijing and the provincial party/
government leadership, provincial organizations exercise more
control through budgetary funding, and control of all but the
most senior assignments. End Comment.)

Leading China in Environmental Law


4. (SBU) In 2007, the cities of Guiyang and Qingzhen
established China's earliest environmental protection courts, Qu
stated. The majority of their cases thus far have been related
to water pollution. The courts also handle cases of misconduct
by environmental officials. In 2008, the Qingzhen City EPA
director was sentenced to three years imprisonment for accepting
bribes from polluting factories. The Guiyang Intermediate
People's Court is particularly noteworthy for a case in which
the All-China Environmental Foundation (ACEF), a
government-sponsored NGO (GONGO), was allowed to sue a
government body, the Guizhou Province Land and Resources
Administration. In the words of a Greenlaw legal blogger, the
Guiyang Court "can be considered to have made the boldest
judicial attempts in advancing public interest litigation by the
environmental courts" (ref A).

5. (SBU) Qu laid out three reasons which prompted Guizhou to
establish such courts:

a) Water protection was especially emphasized in Guizhou
(probably in part due to concerns about mining-related

b) Guizhou sought clearer jurisdictional rights to empower
lower-level courts to handle cases within their jurisdiction (as
opposed to administrative remedies that may have been applied
more arbitrarily); and,

c) Courts provided fair, consistent enforcement mechanisms.

CHENGDU 00000277 002.2 OF 004

6. (SBU) Lawyers in Guizhou have begun to specialize in
environmental law, Qu said. In 2005, about 20 Guizhou
environmental lawyers participated in training sponsored by the
American Lawyers Association. In 2008, the American Lawyers
Association again returned to Guizhou to study the development
of Guizhou's environmental courts.

Burgeoning Role of Civil Society


7. (SBU) Environmental groups dominate China's limited but
growing NGO sphere, Qu said, and she expects an increased role
for them in civil society in the future. After the Guizhou
Environmental Science Society broke away from the Guizhou EPA,
where it had been a government-sponsored NGO (GONGO), the group
began to operate "independently" as a full-fledged NGO. Qu
stated that companies, social organizations, or individuals have
the right to sue polluters or even the government. In cases
where EPA investigation and mediation fail to resolve a dispute,
she added, a case will then be raised to an environmental court.
Qu was unaware, however, of any examples of individuals or
other civil society groups lodging complaints against the

8. (SBU) Comment: Qu made hopeful statements that civil society
was playing an increasingly important role in environmental
policy in Guizhou, but provided few concrete examples. We had
never previously heard of a GONGO evolving into an independent
NGO, as in the case of the "Guizhou Environmental Science
Society." In China, being a "full-fledged" NGO requires
registration with the Civil Affairs Bureau and a local
government office "sponsor" to oversee its work. This "NGO"
sounds more like club of researchers than a mass organization --
the former something the Chinese Government might tolerate, the
latter something that might alarm it.

9. (SBU) Comment continued: That Qu was unaware of any civil
society groups lodging complaints against the government may be
a sign that there are few such cases or an unwillingness to
discuss a sensitive topic. A fully independent NGO would have
great difficulty filing a lawsuit since it would probably lack
legal standing. While Guizhou Province set a precedent by
allowing a GONGO to file a case, GONGOs have been reluctant to
take on more sensitive cases. The real breakthrough, a true NGO
filing suit, has yet to come. (ref A). End Comment.

Greening Guizhou: "Cities with an Ecological Culture"

--------------------------------------------- --------

10. (SBU) Consistent with Beijing's Ecological Culture
initiative, Guizhou officials have crafted the "Ecologically
Civilized Cities" initiative. Based on guidelines set forth by
Qinghua University and the National EPA, the Guizhou cities of
Guiyang, Anshun, Qingzhen, Kaiyang, and Zunyi have embraced the
initiative. "Ecological Culture" is a group of ecology-friendly
values affirmed at the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist
Party in 2007, including forestation, clean water, energy
efficiency and low carbon emissions that are to be implemented
by making them part of the guidelines for determining which
officials are fit for promotion. Linking promotions to progress
is a key change in a personnel evaluation system that, up to
now, has had a blind, Soviet-like focus on GDP growth. Guiyang,
moreover, has been chosen to be a model for the rest of China in
balancing industrial development with environmental protection,
Qu added. Reflecting its importance, Guiyang has hosted the
national "Summit on Ecological Culture" multiple times.

Drawbacks of GDP: Looking to Alternate, Green Yardsticks

--------------------------------------------- -----------

CHENGDU 00000277 003.2 OF 004

11. (SBU) According to an October 2009 Xinhua press agency
report, Guizhou "will improve its responsibility examination and
evaluation system by diversifying it and putting energy
conservation and environmental considerations into the
evaluation system so as to create an incentive system that will
promote the production of high efficiency energy saving and
environmentally friendly products, and put extra effort on this
in certain key areas and key industries and put extra stress on
energy conservation in enterprise management." (URL at ) Much of the talk
of "ecological culture" in official statements is discouragingly
vague. Guizhou's intention to use a yet unpublished "ecological
culture" to decide which officials will be promoted is a hopeful
sign. We'll see from the results after the ecological
culture-based evaluation system is put into effect. End
comment.] End comment.

U.S. Cooperation and the International Visitors Program

--------------------------------------------- ----------

12. (SBU) Twelve years ago, the Wisconsin-based International
Crane Foundation (ICF) sponsored a series of projects to improve
villagers' living conditions, and protect the crane population
in Weining County's Caohai wetlands. The projects were so
successful that the Organizational Department of the Communist
Party used it as a model for other biodiversity projects
throughout China. Since that time, Guizhou has continued to
cooperate with the state of Wisconsin on environmental
protection and biodiversity. Guizhou has also since partnered
with the United States on coal bed methane extraction
techniques, which make use of otherwise wasted methane gas as an
energy source. Last July, Qu and others from Guizhou EPA
travelled to Washington, D.C. to study water management as part
of the State Department's Voluntary Visitors Program. Qu was
particularly impressed by environmental coordination between
government, civil society, and individuals in the United States.

Wastewater Treatment


13. (SBU) Guizhou EPA has taken several concrete steps to
improve water quality:

a) Industrial Waste Water: All new factories must now obtain EPA
permission before beginning production. Old factories that
violate wastewater policies must rectify their practices within
a certain period of time, or risk being shut down.

b) Domestic Waste Water: The Guizhou EPA plans on building waste
water treatment plants in Guiyang, nine other cities, and all 88
county capitals of Guizhou by June 2010. Japanese firms have
provided some of the necessary technology. U.S.-based firm
Western Water Group also has several contracts to build plants
in Guizhou, but a critical lack of piping systems that would
link the plants to the city sewerage systems poses significant
challenges (Ref B). At the town and village level, two enormous
challenges still remain:

-- First, many villages are scattered in remote, mountainous
areas which would make building waste treatment plant
prohibitively expensive.

-- Second, public finance is a problem. Beijing has promised
matching funds, but most towns and villages cannot afford to pay
their share under the matching scheme. Beijing is considering
funding the entire project, but facilities would have to be
built slowly on a village-by-village basis.

Solid Waste Treatment

CHENGDU 00000277 004.2 OF 004


14. (SBU) According to Qu, Guizhou Province is the leading
producer of industrial solid waste in China due to its heavy
mining sector. Through technological breakthroughs, Guizhou now
has a high rate of comprehensive utilization of solid waste.
She mentioned a new power plant in Zunyi, which operates
entirely on industrial waste from aluminum and ferroalloy
factories. The Guizhou Economic Commission has offered
financial incentives to reuse solid waste. However, this has
caused problems with solid waste being recycled in unsafe ways.
To combat this problem, Beijing issued standards on what types
of solid waste can and cannot be recycled. Guizhou EPA has
instituted a monitoring and control system to enforce these new
rules, but still needs to improve these further, Qu said.


Guizhou Early Adapter of Leading Edge Environmental Policies

--------------------------------------------- ---------------

15. (SBU) Although one of China's poorest and most politically
conservative provinces, Guizhou claims to have been one of its
more innovative in promoting environmental protection. We
believe two main factors drive Guizhou's interest in
environmental protection.

-- First, Guizhou's economy relies heavily on its mining sector.
Authorities recognized early on the damage that resulted from
unchecked development, and became an early leader in promoting
environmental protection.

-- Second, Guizhou, like Yunnan, is renowned for its natural
beauty, minority populations, and tourist destinations.
Authorities realized the current and future importance of a
vibrant tourism industry and how this ties in with environmental
protection and economic goals.

© Scoop Media

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