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Vision Of A Cleaner, Greener Future For China

President Hu seeks Japanese expertise to build the vision of a cleaner, greener future for China

Ng Tze-wei in Tokyo – Updated on May 10, 2008 – SCMP

Environmental protection was highlighted again as a key area for Sino-Japanese co-operation by President Hu Jintao yesterday as he visited a state-of-the-art recycling factory near Tokyo.

Mr Hu expressed a wish that Japanese technology could be brought to China during his tour of a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle recycling factory in the Kawasaki Eco-Town, an environment-conscious hi-tech zone that the Japanese government pioneered in 1997.

“We want to introduce Japan’s advanced technology on the environment to China,” Mr Hu said, adding that environmental protection should be a “new highlight” of Sino-Japanese co-operation.

Few details were released on what Mr Hu saw inside the factory, but if he had followed the itinerary of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on his scouting tour last month, the president would have seen a used bottle transformed into a piece of clothing.

China, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States, has been much criticised by the international community for its worsening pollution after years of pursuit of GDP growth.

Japan and China have been trumpeting environmental protection and energy conservation as the major areas for strengthening bilateral ties in recent years, and this priority has been further sealed during Mr Hu’s historic visit to Japan this time.

Mr Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in their landmark joint declaration on Wednesday that “co-operation in the areas of energy and environment is a responsibility owed to our children and the international community” and therefore must be strengthened.

The two leaders further listed global warming as one of the international challenges that China and Japan must tackle together in the declaration – the fourth such communique between the two Asian neighbours, which touched on an array of issues key to Sino-Japanese relations.

Japan hailed as a success the fact that China had “taken notice” of Japan’s proposal to halve emissions by 2050, and a sector-by-sector approach to cutting emissions, in a separate document that the two governments agreed upon on Wednesday.

China’s acknowledgement was seen as a shift in policy since it had always said no to emission targets, claiming that they would hurt economic growth.

Hosting the G8 summit this summer at Hokkaido, Japan has been endeavouring to get the international community to agree to a framework for climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Formulated by the UN, the protocol requires industrial countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 1992 levels by an average of about 5 per cent by 2012, but developing economies such as China and India are not bound by the pact.

Getting China to participate in a new pact in the post-Kyoto era is crucial to Japan’s new role as a world leader in the battle against climate change. So far China has agreed only to participate in the construction of such a framework.

Mr Hu also called on Japan’s business sector on Thursday to give China a hand as it tries to transform into a sustainable and environmentally-friendly society, listing environmental protection and energy conservation as the top areas for joint business ventures. But it is not only about making money for Japan; China’s environmental protection efforts are a topic of high concern to some Japanese legislators who believe it can bring the two countries closer together or tear the relationship apart.

“Other than the gas exploration rights in the East China Sea and the poisoned dumpling incident, environmental issues will also affect Sino-Japanese relations,” said House of Representatives delegate Tomoko Abe of the Social Democratic Party.

“China has been criticising Japan for its wartime aggression and militarism, but China should realise that it also causes problems that are affecting other countries.

“For example, the environmental degradation in China has been affecting Japan and other neighbouring countries. The yellow sand and dust blowing from China bothers Japan every spring.”

A Japanese House delegate for the ruling Liberal Democrats, Masazumi Gotoda, was also concerned but for a different reason.

“The environment is not only a problem for the Chinese, or a problem for the Japanese. It’s a problem for all of mankind,” he said.

“Environmental protection and energy conservation are subjects that both sides must discuss. It’s a crucial element in pushing forward Japanese-Chinese relations.”

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