【经济学人】中国与象牙、毛皮、废料回收利用

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Tusks, skins and waste recycling

象牙、毛皮、废料回收利用

For the natural world, China’s rise may not be so worrisome

对于大自然而言,中国崛起或许不是那般令人担忧

Look what the new year has brought

看看新年带来了什么



UNTIL the end of 2017, carved elephant tusks were still sold legally in China. International trade in ivory had been banned by the government since 1990, but not domestic transactions. At a shop in a glitzy mall in Beijing, the manager showed off his prize exhibit: a carving the size of a football of 30 ivory spheres, one inside the other, each moving separately and intricately carved. It was an example of an ancient craftsmanship, and one that has no future. On January 1st China banned ivory sales. The last ivory-carving factories and shops (including the one in Beijing) closed.

直到2017年底,象牙雕制品仍在中国合法销售。1990年,中国政府就已禁止国际象牙交易,但不包括国内的象牙交易。在北京一家奢华的商店里,经理炫耀他的获奖展品:一个足球大小的象牙雕制品,它由30个以大套小的象牙球组成,每个象牙球能独立活动,并经过精美的雕刻。这是一种没有未来的古老手工技艺。1月1日,中国禁止象牙交易,最后的象牙雕刻厂和商店(包括北京这家)被关闭了。

Environmentalists have long fretted about the impact that a rising China will have on the natural world. They worry not only about carbon emissions but also that, one day, the last tiger will be killed so its penis can be turned into an ineffective aphrodisiac or the last elephant slaughtered so its tusks can be carved into a gift. Yet as China has grown richer, it has changed. Three pieces of news at the start of 2018 suggest that some of the worst environmental fears are not being realised.

环保人士一直担忧中国崛起对大自然造成的影响,他们担心的不只是碳排放,还担心中国人为了获取虎鞭这种无效春药,老虎终有一天会灭绝;为了将象牙雕刻成礼品,大象终有一天会灭绝。但是,中国变富使事情发生了变化。2018年伊始,三条新闻显示某些最大的环境担忧没有成为现实。

The closure of the domestic ivory business (the first of the changes) goes back to a deal between Barack Obama, then America’s president, and Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, in 2015. They promised a “nearly complete ban” on ivory sales. America duly banned transactions in 2016, except for those of century-old antique pieces. China closed a third of its ivory-carving workshops in early 2017 and the rest in the past few days. Illegal sales will doubtless continue. In 2017 officials in Hong Kong seized over seven tonnes of illegal ivory, the largest haul for 30 years. Hong Kong’s ivory market, which is regulated separately, remains open, but it is due to be phased out by 2022.

国内的象牙产业被取缔(第一个变化)可追溯到2015年,时任美国总统的巴拉克•奥巴马与中国主席签署一份协议,双方承诺“几乎彻底禁止”象牙交易。2016年,美国如期禁止象牙交易,有百年史的古董除外。2017年初,中国关闭三分之一的象牙雕制品商店,过去几天关闭了其余商店。非法交易必定继续存在。2017年,香港官员没收7吨非法象牙,可谓30年来最大规模的象牙走私案。受独立监管的香港象牙市场至今未关闭,但预计2022年被取缔。

China’s actions seem to be having the desired effect. A study for Save the Elephants, a charity in Kenya, found that the average price of a kilogram of good-quality elephant tusk in China had fallen from $2,100 in 2014 to $730 in 2017 (see chart). The ban that has just taken effect is likely to drive prices down further. Elephants are still being slaughtered in vast numbers. It is even possible that the fall in the price of ivory may cause poachers to slaughter more beasts, since they need more tusks to make the same amount of money. But eventually, making ivory worth less should reduce the incentive to poach.

中国的行动似乎达到了预期效果。肯尼亚“拯救大象”慈善组织的研究显示,中国每公斤优质象牙的平均价格已从2014年的2100美元将至2017年的730美元,生效的禁令可能使价格进一步下跌。目前大象仍被大量屠杀,象牙价格的下跌甚至可能使偷猎者屠杀更多大象,因为他们需要更多的象牙来赚取相同的利润。但最终象牙贬值应该会减少偷猎者的积极性。

This is not the only case in which the government has sought to moderate the environmental consequences of Chinese tastes. A campaign led by a former basketball star, Yao Ming, helped slash demand for shark’s fin soup, a delicacy. Imports of dried fins fell from 4,800 tonnes in 2004 to 20 tonnes in 2014. The government also banned shark’s fin soup from official banquets and the sale of any edible product from endangered species, such as pangolin, whose scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

中国政府设法减少因中国人喜好而造成的环境损害,这并非个例。前篮球明星姚明曾发起运动,帮助减少美味的“鲨鱼翅汤”的市场需求。中国干鱼翅的进口量从2004年的4800吨下降至2014年的20吨。中国政府禁止官员宴席上出现“鱼翅汤”,禁止销售取自濒危动物的任何可食用产品,例如中药使用的穿山甲鳞片。

China is far from an animal-welfare paradise. By coincidence, on the day ivory sales were banned, the country cut the duty on imported donkey skin from 5% to 2%, the second of this year’s changes. Gelatine from boiled donkey hide is another ingredient in traditional medicine (skins, probably destined for the Chinese market, are pictured in Kenya). Campaigners say the action threatens the world’s donkey population, though it is hard to see how, given that there were 44m donkeys in 2016 and their numbers are rising. All things being equal, more demand from China ought to translate into more donkeys raised. But it is certainly pushing up the price of donkey-hide gelatine (see chart).

中国远不是动物的福利天堂。巧合的是,在象牙被禁售当天,中国将驴皮的进口关税从5%下调至2%,这是今年以来第二次变化。从水煮驴皮中提取的阿胶也是一种中药成分(图中的肯尼亚驴皮可能被运往中国市场)。活动人士说该行为可能威胁全球驴的数量,但很难说怎样构成威胁,毕竟2016年有4400万头驴,并且数量还在攀升。不出意外的话,中国更多需求会使人们养更多的驴,但必然导致阿胶价格水涨船高。

Indeed sometimes it is China’s modernisation that has the biggest environmental impact—as the third of the recent changes shows. China is not only the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, but the world’s largest recycler, treating just over half of exported plastic waste. Recycling, for all its benefits, is a filthy business. In one town that specialises in recycling used electronics, 80% of children were found to have excess lead in their blood. On January 1st China banned the import of 24 categories of waste, including household plastics. This should improve its own environment but is a problem in countries such as Britain which send China rubbish for processing. The head of the UK Recycling Association called it “a huge blow for us”.

事实上,有时中国现代化对环境造成的影响最大,这正是最近出现的第三个变化。中国不仅是世界上最大的碳排放国,也是最大的回收利用国,世界超过一半的出口废旧塑料被运往中国处理。尽管回收利用益处很多,但这是一个肮脏产业。有一个中国城镇专门回收废旧电子设备,当地80%儿童被发现血铅超标。1月1日,中国禁止进口包括家用塑料在内的24种废料,这应当能改善中国环境,但对英国这种将垃圾运往中国处理的国家来说成了问题,“英国回收利用协会”负责人称“对我们是一个巨大打击”。

If it is a shock, it is a pleasant one. As China gets richer it is taking the environment more seriously (see article). On balance, that benefits everyone.

如果说造成冲击,那也是可喜的冲击。随着中国变得富有,它在更认真的处理环境问题。总之,这将会使所有人受益。

 
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