US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson saw for himself yesterday
efforts to reverse environmental degradation around China's largest
inland saltwater lake, taking the spotlight off currency tensions
for a day.
"Climate change is a very important issue in this country, it's
very important globally and it's very important in the US," Paulson
told reporters during a visit to the Qinghai Lake, which is
shrinking because of rising temperatures.
"By coming here I call attention to what China is doing
environmentally and reinforce what it's doing."
Paulson, a longtime environmentalist who has chaired The Nature
Conservancy, said he was impressed with a program funded by the
Chinese central government to reclaim advancing desert areas near
the lake by planting vegetation on sand dunes and former
Qinghai Lake in the Northwest China's Qinghai Province was ranked at the top of the
country's five most beautiful lakes in a national survey by the
China National Geography magazine two years ago.
The lake is about 3,200 meters above sea level and spread across
about 4,300 square km. Thawing glaciers and abundant rainfall have
swollen the size of Qinghai Lake from 4,254 square km in July 2004
to its current size of 4,285 square km.
Paulson said Qinghai Lake and glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet
Plateau were important for global climate because shrinking of the
lake and melting of the glaciers could permanently shift the
jetstream, affecting the weather in other continents, too.
Likewise, carbon emissions elsewhere could hasten the lake's
He said engagement in environmental issues was important to US
President George W. Bush, who wants to draw China into a coalition
of the world's top carbon-emitting countries to formulate a plan
for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"Paulson's visit to Qinghai helped him gain first-hand
information and experience on some of the domestic problems and
efforts that China is facing. This will help the discussions during
the Strategic Economic Dialogue, making it more relevant and
practical," said Zhang Jianyu, program manager of the US-based
Paulson is scheduled to meet Vice Premier Wu Yi and central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan today and President Hu Jintao on Wednesday.
He told reporters traveling with him that he would again press
for faster revaluation of the yuan and other reforms, such as
rebalancing China's economy away from exports and toward more
domestic consumption and increasing foreign access to China's
financial services sector.
Paulson's visit coincides with US lawmakers' efforts to advance
legislation aimed at pressuring China to open its markets to raise
the yuan's value.
Last week, the US Senate Finance Committee passed a bill that
would allow companies to seek anti-dumping duties against products
from countries that have "fundamentally misaligned" currencies,
leading eventually to intervention by the Federal Reserve.
Paulson said he was concerned over the currency legislation. He
preferred achieving currency and economic reform through bilateral
and multilateral dialogue.
But he understood the motivation behind it and frustrations
among Americans about trade imbalances.
"I don't want China to become an increasingly big political
issue in the US," he said.
(China Daily July 31, 2007)