China at forefront of environmentalism?

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(This is Part 3 of a four-part series. Read Part 1, "China's growth has lessons for U.S."; Part 2, "As China grows, so do its problems"; and Part 4, "China takes technology to next level.") When it comes to environmentalism, the Chinese are bad, bad people, right? Not exactly. Thanks to their government's skill at disseminating ideas, the Chinese are acutely aware of their environmental troubles. Given their many other priorities, the surprise is that they've already started grappling with the problem. The Chinese have had basic energy conservation practices in place for years. On my first visit to Shanghai in 1994, for example, I was surprised to see solar water heaters crowding the rooftops of practically every apartment block -- something we don't see in the United States even today. And things have only improved since then. Energy-saving fluorescent lamps are now the rule rather than the exception in China, not only in commercial and industri...