Maria Bartiromo on the Olympics

NBC and its affiliates have a ton of people here covering the Olympics, but even those not in China are featuring Beijing, China and the Games in their broadcasts from the States. In June, I was interviewed by Maria Bartiromo for her Wall Street Journal Report. Even then, much of the talk was about the upcoming Olympics—-and the environment. The full interview ran in the States this past Sunday evening at 7:30 pm on CNBC nationwide. The preview segment on the CNBC.com website was appropriately titled:

China’s Future & the Olympics

With the Beijing Olympics getting underway, Maria talks to Jack Perkowski–an American attempting to build a billion dollar business for a billion-plus population.

Beijing is surrounded by mountains, and so far Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated with the combination of rain and wind needed for my prediction of blue skies to become reality. After a beautiful weekend before everyone arrived last week, Beijing has been hot, humid and grey. Thankfully, it rained on Sunday; the city is much cooler today; and if the winds pick up, I may yet be redeemed for at least part of the period of the Games.

Beijing weather aside, the point I made in the interview is that the environment is one of the future constraints in the growth of China’s economy, and the government now recognizes this fact and has turned the corner in terms of how it thinks about these issues. I realize there is a very, very long way to go before China can fully address the many environmental problems it faces, but a mindset change was an important and necessary first step. From our vantage point as a manufacturing company with factories throughout the country, I see growing evidence that environmental impact is increasingly being factored into the country’s decision making.

First of all, local officials now bring up the topic of the environment—and the positive steps they are taking to improve it—-in discussions about their city, town or province. It’s clear that the environment is now part of the scorecard that the higher ups in Beijing look at in evaluating performance.

Secondly, I saw tangible evidence of a quite different attitude in my recent trip to our factory in Shanxi Province. Located about 1000 kilometers from Beijing, it sits near a steel processing facility that, in the past, regularly spewed orange smoke into the surrounding area. Despite repeated complaints to the local authorities, we could never get them to clean up their act. Now, it seems, government officials are visiting all of the factories in the area at least once a month to ensure that the rules are being followed.

Though tougher enforcement of existing environmental regulations was undoubtedly begun as part of the cleanup for the Olympics, the Chinese are no different than people in any other part of the world. Once people have clean air, they tend to want to keep it that way.

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