At last year’s 19th Party Congress, Xi Jinping vowed to confront the “principle contradiction” facing Chinese society: “the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.” While the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) once rested in its ability to deliver prosperity to the developing nation, Xi Jinping’s statement bluntly acknowledged the Party’s responsibility to deliver more than just material gains. China’s pollution crisis is, of course, the quintessence of this contradiction. The C.C.P. cannot continue to pursue economic growth at the expense of its environment without running a major risk to its legitimacy.
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