China is tightening the reins

The reins are being tightened in China. Not just when it comes to the carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution and traffic rules, which I wrote about before. No, it’s rules and regulations in general, that are suddenly strictly monitored.

Unlike in the past. The Chinese used to be quite happy to turn a blind eye or pay a bribe. Exploding factories, not always built following all the building regulations, are not uncommon here. The latest factory explosion happened not too long ago and caused many deaths.

If the death toll is high, the incident might reach the international news, but there are many other, smaller incidents that go unreported. With many great interests at stake, things are passed over on a regular basis. Maintenance for example, has never been of China’s strongest points. It used to be that a cup of tea with the inspectors and a few banknotes here and there would solve the problem. But those days are over: anyone who doesn’t adhere to the regulations can count on harsh penalties from now on.

Zoning was another area where the rules were often taken quite lightly. Especially in our region, Yunnan province, which is dominated by agriculture and horticulture, it was usually not a problem to get an application for an agricultural project approved. But the tricks that were being played once permission was obtained, were quite something.

People would build their greenhouse and subsequently use it for all sorts of things except growing crops. As a result, we’ve got numerous restaurants housed in greenhouses. Indoor cloth, outdoor cloth, filled with potted plants, tables and chairs, these places are barely recognisable as greenhouses anymore. Many other greenhouses serve as warehouse and distribution centres, factories and workshops, and some are even in use as accommodation. And that is where it went wrong the other day: a greenhouse where people were sleeping, caught fire and several people died.

That’s when all hell broke loose. Since then, government officials have been going from one company to the next, meticulously checking all permits. Any illegal company they found, was given two days to move out. After exactly 48 hours, the bulldozers arrived. After another 48 hours, the entire company was literally razed to the ground. If the owners hadn’t managed to move out their inventory on time, it was simply demolished together with everything else.

It goes to show that fast action is possible in China. Governmental issues usually take forever, but when it comes to things like this, no time is wasted. Wouldn’t it be great if the government was that fast in other areas too?

Cok Harteveld,

General manager Van den Berg Roses, China

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