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Will China Choke On its Own Growth?

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

It's starting to feel like China is reaching its environmental limits. If it doesn't radically change to "greener," more sustainable modes of transportation, production, and power generation, the China miracle will turn into an eco-nightmare. For some three decades, China's economy has grown at around 10 percent per year, based on low-cost labor and little regard for the waste it pumps into its rivers and the air. But China can't grow now and clean up later: The pace and scale of its growth will make later too late. Chinese officials fear that if they move to U.S.-level green production and environmental cleanup, "China will not be such a low-cost producer anymore, and that will affect jobs," notes Dan Rosen, an expert on China's economy. But what they are missing is that going green is an opportunity. Pollution represents waste and inefficiency. Green companies are always more efficient, Rosen adds, and China has a chance to become a major innovator of low-cost green solutions.

Thomas L. Friedman