Saturday, December 22, 2007

Germany exports old polluting steel mills to China

The New York Times reports how China is buying old, outdated factories from Germany, tearing them down, shipping them thousands of miles before reassembling them in Northern China. The report is the latest in a long-running series about how China's industrialization is poisoning people and planet Earth.

It is a rather fascinating piece of reporting. Much like the U.S., Germany has lost the jobs that China gained. The German city of Dortmund, where ThyssenKrupp once made steel, suffers from high unemployment. But the shift is bittersweet. Germany has also lost the tall smoke stakes that belch sulfur and carbon dioxide, turning white shirts gray. The awful pollution that once fouled Germany's skies is now China's problem.

New York Times foreign correspondents Joseph Kahn and Mark Landler do an excellent job of showing not everyone is a loser here. Germans can buy Chinese-made iPods, washing machines and cargo ships at prices that, because of lax pollution controls, do not reflect the toll on the environment. And the outsourcing of polluting industries has given them cleaner air and water.

This installment is a challenging piece of reporting that spans two continents. It tackles the complex task of writing about the steel business, explaining the impact of environmental controls and regulation while putting the impact of China's industrialization in a much larger context.

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