Monthly Archives: January 1997

为中国的环境担忧

笔者自一九九一年出国以来先后在英国牛津大学地理学院环境研究中心,夏威夷东西方中心环境研究所、加拿大皇后大学和美国威斯康星大学环境研究所从事研究工作。自那时以来,中国大陆的变化可谓很大,宏观上政府终于同意实施其长期反对的市场经济政策,改革进一步深入,全民一心一意发展经济;微观上我曾获博士学位和任教三年的南京大学地理学系环境专业根据中国市场经济的需要停止了招生,有关教师正忙着改行于房地产开发、旅游经济、建筑工程地质等直接与经济相关的专业。至于我,南京大学是不能回了,好友都在劝我发挥自己在计算机应用方面的功力改行到美国公司去挣钱。

目前国际上对环境的研究概括起来主要包括三个方面的内容。一是自然环境与资源的研究。如环境变迁,水资源,土地资源,森林资源,气候资源,自然灾害等。第二个方面是工业污染环境的研究。第三方面是将自然环境和污染环境与人结合的研究。如人口与生态环境,环境与政策,环境与发展,环境与文化,环境管理,环境心理和教育等方面关系的研究。中国对自然环境(第一方面)的研究有较为悠久的历史,承担这方面研究的单位也较多。如综合性大学的地学系(包括地理、地质、大气科学等科系),科学院系统的地理研究所,大气研究所,生态研究所以及国家气象局等。近二十年来随着对自然资源的重视这些单位也多加强了对自然资源的研究。对污染环境(第二方面)的研究中国则是自七十年代以来随着环境科学系等在综合性大学的普遍成立以及国家环境保护局和各主要省市环境保护单位的相继成立才得到广泛的重视。但对于环境研究的第三个方面,也即将环境与人结合的研究,中国则处于刚起步或尚未起步的阶段。而且这种起步随着全民皆商意识的加强在环境第一、二方面研究减弱的同时也明显减缓甚至停滞。西方国家多通过传统地理系的改造来承担这第三方面的研究,并为其环境政策制定,环境管理,人民环境意识的提高以及人与环境关系的理解等起到了相当重要的作用。但那历史悠久并且是中国第一批被认定可培养博士的南京大学地理系环境专业却没有得到类似的改造机会。

从具体对环境问题的态度与对策上看,目前世界不同国家大致可分为四种类型。一是发达国家。其早在二、三十年前随着经济发展和教育水平提高,人民对环境问题已有相当的重视。通过过去几十年致力于环境的研究与保护,其环境的破坏,如工业污染、水土流失、植被破坏等,已得到较有力的控制,自然资源在良性循环的基础上得到了更为充分合理的使用。同时通过对过去经济高速发展时期已造成的环境破坏的治理,其环境已得到相当程度的恢复。随着国内环境问题的解决其注意力越来越转向全球环境问题。二是新兴工业化国家和地区。台湾为其典型代表。其在过去几十年的高速经济发展中,环境作出了极大的牺牲。对环境的抱怨也成为许多较富有者移居发达国家的主要原因。但随着经济和教育水平的提高,人民对环境问题已开始有相当的重视。政府正在采取越来越强有力的措施改善和保护环境,并鼓励环境污染较重的工业移往境外(多移往发展中国家)。三是迅速发展中的发展中国家。其基本特点是经济处于高速发展中,同时环境也在进一步地恶化。由于对高速经济发展的强烈要求及人口素质较低对环境质量呼声不高等原因,其对环境问题的重视仍远不及已工业化或新兴工业化的国家和地区,许多环境保护措施,由于对经济发展的考虑等原因而难以实施。四是低速发展中的发展中国家。其环境的变化较小或处于以森林破坏、水土流失等农业性环境破坏为主要问题的时期。

中国大陆属于上述第三类的典型国家。自二十世纪七十年代末,中国开始进入了全面的改革与经济发展时期,并取得了举世瞩目的成绩。但是,在经济高速发展的同时,其环境也处于迅速恶化之中。这方面,海外的中国环境问题专家等曾多有呼吁(如Maclean’s中文版,1995,创刊号;Smil, 1993),在此不多赘述。海外环境专家呼吁的主要是工业污染和区域性的环境资源短缺(如地区性的缺水)等问题。对于这些问题,大多数中国人的看法可能是:工业污染是要控制,但不能以牺牲经济的发展为代价;中国政府也在努力通过各种工程调节环境资源的地区再分布,国家财政有限,只能慢慢来。但如果对中国社会有更多了解,不难发现许多的环境破坏并不是经济发展时必不可免的,而是人民环境意识低下和缺乏环境管理所至。也即中国在环境保护的上述第三个方面的工作薄弱。如作家张爱玲女士九二年在北京遗憾紫竹公园内的餐馆工作人员将垃圾倒入紫竹湖内(中央日报,)。显然,并不是要将垃圾倒入湖内餐馆的生意才会兴隆。

另一个问题是中国是否可以象发达国家和新兴工业化国家及地区一样先努力发展经济然后治理环境呢?这是许多中国人对中国环境问题认识的症结所在。这个问题当然值得研讨,但答案可能不容乐观。第一,与发达国家和新兴工业化国家及地区经济高速发展时相比较,中国大陆具有其特殊性:1)经济发展十分迅速,2)人口压力极大,3)人口素质十分低,法制观念淡薄,4)社会制度处于从计划经济向市场经济的转型时期。如果中国在经济高速发展时采取与以往发达国家和新兴工业化国家及地区类似甚至更松弛自由的环境管理态度和政策,加之社会制度处于转型时期,不难想象庞大的低素质人口在金钱至上的驱动下完全可以导致环境的毁灭性破坏。

第二,许多环境的破坏是以后短期内不可恢复的,如水土流失,土地沙漠化,耕地被占用等。以水土流失为例,在水分充沛生物活动强烈的中国南方从粘土发育为土壤需要上百年至几百年时间,北方需要更长的时间。而如果是山区,森林被破坏后浅薄的表层土壤流失,从裸露的基岩上新生土壤需要千年以上的时间。人口压力较小的国家可通过休闲土地恢复环境,但人口压力极大的中国将不得不在已遭破坏的土地上强行耕种,恶性循环。至于象黄土高原那样的地区,水土流失不仅带走了肥沃的土壤,使河流淤塞,还可将平坦的黄土原切割成丘陵沟谷,不可恢复。

第三,尽管发达国家和新兴工业化国家及地区经济高度发展后改善本国环境的措施多种多样,但也有不少共同之处。其中最明显的是向境外移民和将环境污染较重的工业移往发展中国家。欧洲国家在工业化中、后期人口大量移出,遍布今日南、北美洲、大洋洲和南非,今日的南韩、台湾、香港和稍早的日本也都是相对人口移出比率甚高的国家和地区。尽管环境问题只是这些人口外迁的主要原因之一,但人口移出无疑减小了本国人口与环境资源的压力,为环境的恢复创造了有利条件。但对中国大陆而言,由于其人口基数极大,世界各国接受大量移民的心理又都十分脆弱,因此将不可能通过对外移民来减小人口与环境的压力。另一方面,世界上比中国大陆落后很多的国家和地区并不太多,这使将来中国也没有多少将污染工业移往境外的可能。此外,日本和新兴工业化国家及地区的另一策略是将自己有限的环境资源尽可能用于工业和第三产业方面,农业则依赖进口。但中国目前一年的谷物消耗量高达三亿五千万吨,只要短缺15%,即五千多万吨,就相当于全球谷物出口量的四分之一,可让国际社会供不应求(《中国面临生态困境挑战》,华夏文摘,一九九六年,第二五二期),加之中国仍是农民占绝大多数的农业国,靠农业进口减轻环境的压力与破坏,可行性十分令人怀疑。

就环境本身而言,中国的环境复杂且自然灾害十分频繁。中国处在湿润的太平洋夏季风和干燥的西伯利亚冬季风控制之下,两种季风强度的年变化很不稳定,导致一些年份多雨而另一些年份旱灾,一些地区多雨而同时另一些地区却偏旱。同时,中国又处在太平洋、欧亚大陆和印度三大地壳板块的交接处,地震频繁。这一切使中国自历史时期以来自然灾害如表一所示发生十分频繁。这些环境灾害对中国历史和文化影响致深,从天地人合一的中国传统哲学到北京天坛祈年殿都带着深刻的环境烙印,翻开二十四史环境异常记录比比皆是。

表一、近二千一百年来中国主要自然灾害发生次数
_________________________________________
水灾 旱灾 地震 蝗灾 潮灾 风灾
1900 1600 3000 1400 890 750
_________________________________________

近年中国大陆的农民骚动和流民潮引起了广泛的注意。作为一个农民仍占绝大多数的国家,农民的境况和反应对国家的命运有举足轻重的作用。历史资料的分析表明农民暴动与连年剧烈环境灾害的关系密切。环境灾害在中国历史上的许多农民暴动中起着背景性而不是直接触发的作用,因此其作用常被忽视。另一方面,在马克思主义哲学中农民暴动被认为是阶级斗争的产物,环境灾害被认为是不能起决定性作用的外因而被忽略。但是,近十年来历史学家的研究越来越肯定环境的作用。如明末农民起义前夕正值全球气候聚变时期,在中国旱灾发生频繁,尤以半干旱气候的陕西等地为最。这不仅在《明史》中有许多记载,其在明末农民起义中的作用也为许多现代学者所肯定(如Parsons, 1970; Lamb, 1988)。斯坦福大学的伊丽莎白•佩雷(Elizabeth Perry)博士在对一八四五至一九四五年中国华北历次农民骚动的长期研究后指出,其根本原因是如何在众多人口中分配有限环境资源的矛盾。辛亥革命被众所周知地归因于清朝政府晚期的腐败,但仔细阅读清史和辛亥革命志士的宣传文件不难发现起自一九零一年的长江流域连年严重水灾客观上也起了巨大作用(李文海,1991)。我们将二十四史记录的农民起义及其原因解释存于计算机资料库中进行分析,发现对三百三十九次起义爆发原因提供的五百三十九个解释中,三百三十七个与环境灾害有关,涉及二百零三次起义;青黄不接的十二月至三月(农历)暴动发生的概率远高于其他月份;地区分布上以水旱灾频繁的黄河中下游最易发生。表二列出了中国历史上自秦以来的主要朝代晚期农民起义的原因,不难发现环境灾害在许多起义的爆发中也起了重要作用。

当然,连年剧烈的灾害并不必然会导致农民的暴动。一般来说,当社会处于较稳定状态时政府对灾害的救济调适能力较强,同时也有较强能力组织农民兴修水利、储备粮食以防御灾害。而当社会处于较不稳定时,政府不仅对灾害的救济应变能力甚弱,同时也无能有效组织农民防御灾害,使灾害的破坏力更为加强。因此,中国历史学家多相信天灾与人祸是相互激发、相互促进。那么,回到现实的中国,现在的情况怎样呢?自七十年代后期农民包产到户以来,由于集体力量的削弱,水利设施严重失修,这些中共政府也坦承不讳。同时,中国的经济处于从传统农业向现代工业的过渡时期,农村剩余劳力形成强大的流民潮,农村与城市收入差距进一步加大。伴随经济高速发展,自然环境在日益恶化,越来越脆弱。另一方面,中国的经济制度和社会制度正处于转型之中或十字路口,各种矛盾丛生。在这种情况之下,若发生明末或清末那样的环境灾害,结果是否会比那时更好呢?不容乐观。

以上是从中国社会稳定和发展角度对潜在环境危机的讨论,至于发达国家普遍关心的环境疾病、环境美化、环境心理健康等问题对目前的中国可能更不能苛求。尽管环境的潜在危机并不是不可避免的,但如果中国不能从现在起在经济高速发展的同时加强对环境的管理与保护,不能加强对人民的环境意识教育,可以预见,环境问题在二十一世纪将会同现在的人口问题一样,成为中国政府和人民所面临的最为困扰的难题。那时,中国人民要付出的代价可能远比为“一胎化”政策付出的大。

主要参考文献
李文海 (1991). 清末自然灾害与辛亥革命,历史研究,第五期,三至十八页。
Parsons, James Bunyan (1970). Peasant Rebellions of the Late Ming Dynasty. 292p. The University of Arizona Press, Arizona.
Perry, Elizabeth J. (1980). Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China, 1845-1945. 324p. Stanford University Press.
Smil, Vaclav (1993). China’s Environmental Crisis: an inquiry into the limits of national development. 257p. M. E. Sharpe, Armouk, New York.

作者:方金琪 1997.1于美国威斯康辛大学
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China Raised Its Domestic Postage Rate Again

China Raised Its Domestic Postage Rate Again
Jim Q. Fang

According to World Journal (96.12.1), the largest Chinese newspaper outside mainland China, China raised its domestic postage rate from 20 to 50 cents for non-local letter and from 10 to 50 cents for local letter in Chinese currency in the last December 1st. It is only the second time of domestic postage rate adjustment in nearly half century in China. The first one occurred in 1990 when the government allowed the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT) to increase domestic postage rate from 8 to 20 cents for non-local letter and from 4 to 10 cents for local letter in Chinese currency.
Soon after 1949 when the communists took the power of mainland China, 800 yuan was chosen as the unified rate for non-local domestic letter. This rate was even lower than previous rates in some provinces and areas. For example, Yunnan province had its own rate of 1000 yuan before using the unified rate in May 11th of 1950. New currency units were put into practical in March 1st of 1955 and the 800-yuan domestic rate was changed to its equivalent of 8 cents in the new currency system. From that time until 1990, the rate remained no change.
Even after the adjustment of this time, China’s domestic postage rate is still quite low compared with its international postage rate, its home price index, or with USA’s domestic postage rate. In early 1950s, 8 cents of Chinese currency were worthy of about 5 cents of USA currency and could buy about half pound of millet on Chinese market. In 1990, the then new domestic postage rate, 20 cents, however, were only worthy of about 4 cents of USA currency and could only buy about two oz of millet. This time, 50 cents are equal to about 6 cents of USA currency according to the current exchange rate.
Low domestic postage rate has caused a long-term trouble to both the Chinese central government and MPT. According to Mr. Sheng Minghuan, Director General of Posts, today a domestic letter in China is transported 770 km on average and costs 86 cents in Chinese currency. As a result, the Postal Service suffered a loss of 66 cents on average for each domestic letter it sent before the adjustment. From 1991 to 1995, each year the capital loss from postal service was 0.38, 1.03, 2.42, 3.37, and 5 billions of Chinese yuan, respectively. This year, the lose may reach 7 billion yuan, about 0.85 billions of US dollars, according to Central Daily News (96.11.29), another Chinese newspaper published in Taiwan.
Before China’s economic reform in early 1980s, prices of almost everything on Chinese market, including its postage rate, remained no change for decades and the communist government enjoyed its ever-stable prices. Since the reform, the most important obstacle for China’s domestic postage rate adjustment came from pressure of inflation control. According to Mr. Sheng, the General of Posts has proposed to raise domestic postage rate for several times in the past years, and every time it was turned down by the central government under consideration of inflation control. The government worried that domestic postage rate increase would cause an increase of price index and bring a higher inflation pressure. In 1996, inflation seems to be under control and so the central government finally allowed MPT to increase domestic postage rate. According to Central Daily News, however, the basic rate that the General of Posts expected to raise to is one yuan (dollar) rather than 50 cents as it is now.
This worry was also confirmed by China’s international postage rate adjustment. The government felt no hesitation to postage adjustment for international mails because it had a very limited impact on domestic inflation. Since 1988, MPT has raised its international postage rate for more than four times from 1.1 yuan (dollar) to 2.90 yuan which is 14.5 times higher than then 20-cent domestic rate. This time, the international postage rate was adjusted again. Although MPT claimed that it did not raise the international postage rate this time, it lift the bottom of weight calculation for an international letter from 10 to 20 grams. Consequently, the minimum postage was changed from 2.90 to 4.20 yuan. Moreover, a 2.20 air mail fee is added to each air mail. So, the minimum postage for an international air mail is actually raised from 2.90 to 6.40 yuan after the last December 1st, which is equal to about 77 cents of US currency and again is nearly 13 times higher than the new 50-cent domestic rate.
Looking from a good side, the unusual low domestic postage rate brought some fun to stamp collectors. One thing is that many postmen ignored how much postage was affixed or even ignored what stamps were used as postage because the required postage was too low and almost worth nothing. Last November, one of my friends in China sent me three covers, which were recently used for domestic letters in China. One of them is with a USA stamp on it as postage, one with a stamp of Republic of China as shown in Fig. 1a, and another with two stamps of Manchukuo, a dead Japanese puppet nation established in Northeastern China during the World War II.
Because the government of Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan and the government of People’s Republic of China (PRC) in mainland are still hostile to each other, it is illegal to trade ROC’s stamps on any market of mainland China. According to Central Daily News (96.10.18), the PRC government re-enforced its ban to ROC’s stamp trade in October of 1989 and again in October of 1996 through official orders jointly issued by the Ministry of Public Security, the MPT, and National Industrial and Commercial Bank. However, there seems to be nothing to worry to use ROC’s stamps on a domestic letter of mainland China because the required postage was so low that no one paid serious attention to what kind of stamps were used.
The letter shown in Fig. 1 was sent from Santou to Sanwei, two cities in Guangdong (Canton) province of mainland China, and was returned from Sanwei due to incorrect address. So there was a form for letter return (Form 1407) was affixed on the face side of the cover by the post office at Sanwei, which is shown in Fig. 1b. There were two postmarks of receiving places on the back of the cover, which is shown in Fig. 1c. Plus to the postmarks on the stamp and on the Form 1407, it becomes clear that the letter was sent on Sept. 4 1996 from Santou, received at Sanwei on Sept. 6, returned on Sept. 8, and received at Santou on Sept. 11. After doing so much work to the letter, the postmen did not say any word about the ROC stamp, which was affixed on the cover as postage.

1997. Jan. Originally published on Lynn Stamp News