Commentary Magazine


What China Doesn’t Want Us to Know

Today the Financial Times reports that, at Beijing’s insistence, the World Bank deleted almost a third of its new study, “Cost of Pollution in China.” Senior cadres were concerned that the World Bank’s most startling conclusion—that bad air and bad water cause about 750,000 premature deaths in China each year—“could cause misunderstanding.” “We did not want to make this report too thick,” said the considerate Guo Xiaomin, who, as a former official from the horribly misnamed State Environmental Protection Agency, coordinated Chinese research for the project.

A pared-down version of the study, which is still in draft, is available without the sensitive death estimate. The World Bank told Agence France Presse that the final report is “still under review.”

It is hardly a surprise when Chinese autocrats insist upon the removal of information that “could cause social unrest,” to borrow the words of an adviser who worked on the study. But the World Bank has no business acceding to such demands. China’s environmental degradation not only kills Chinese; it is beginning to affect our own health as well. The country is air-mailing pollutants half-way around the world, and is now the world’s largest emitter of CO2, the main greenhouse gas.

With the help of the World Bank, China’s Communists have now managed to export not only pollution but their governing principles of censorship, secrecy, and unaccountability.