Is Communist China's authoritarianism good when it comes to enforcing environmental edicts? Michael Wines' story on Saturday from Beijing, "Beijing's Cleaner, but the War Is Far From Won ," hinted it might be.
Wines talked of China's improving air quality and suggested the regime's "tenacity" (an odd adjective to describe one-party authoritarian rule) enabled it to put in place tougher environmental laws without pesky "industry lobbyists and balky political machinery" - better known in the West as democracy and checks and balances.
In the past decade, in fact, authorities have moved against air pollution problems with a tenacity that some environmentalists in developed nations, pitted against industry lobbyists and balky political machinery, can only envy....Nor is that all, either. Before last year's Olympics, the government imposed a regimen based on even and odd license-plate numbers that effectively banned half of all private automobiles from the road on weekdays. Officials - and the public - liked it so much that a modified version, banning one in five cars, is now a permanent rule.
That's a slight echo of Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who in September  also wrote about China's enviromental strides: "One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages."