Small carrot, big stickChina has been cracking down on both corruption and pollution, two huge problems that are sadly intertwined. The country's leaders aren't just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts; Pollution is now the #1 cause of social unrest in the country (see for example this woman’s personal documentary of air pollution that went viral in China), and if the communists want to stay in power, they need as little unrest as possible... No exactly pure idealism, but if this realpolitik can clean up the air, war, and soil for more than a billion people, we'll take it.
One of the problems in the country is that the central government has been pushing its officials to produce growth almost at all cost, but that causes a lot of pollution. So when officials get contradictory messages - protect the environment by keep growth high - they tend to ignore the environmental part of the message and focus on growth because there's been few consequences in the past to pollution, but low growth is considered unacceptable.But that's changing. Apparently. We'll see how much this is enforced, but the new party line, as relayed by the state media this week, is that even officials who have retired will be held accountable and punished for pollution that occurred while they were in charge. You can no longer just retire and wash your hands off any damage you caused...
Beijing has repeatedly promised to strengthen monitoring and law enforcement, and a new environmental law in force since Jan. 1 gives it the clout to impose unlimited fines and jail sentences on repeat offenders.
Under new guidelines on environmental monitoring, it is officials in senior positions who will be held accountable for whether or not the environment is being protected, state television said on its main evening news. (source)