Blunt admissions are the last thing that you expect from government ministers, and that’s especially the case in China. So there was widespread surprise when the country’s minister for the environment poured scorn on the performance of his own department. According to Xinhua, Zhou Shengxian said: “I’ve heard there are four major embarrassing departments in the world and that China’s ministry of environmental protection is one of them.” Intriguingly Zhou didn’t reveal who the other three departments were, but his remark is a telling one. It shows that the sorry state of China’s air and water quality has become a source of shame even for the minister tasked with protecting them, although Zhou also said that one reason for his ministry’s difficulties is that environmental work involves many departments, with overlapping functions.
Zhou’s comment came in the same week that a new MIT-Beida-Tsinghua study revealed that China’s air pollution will shorten its citizens’ lives by an average five and half years.
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