Cleo Paskal is associate fellow at London-based think-tank Chatham House and author of . She points to enduring corruption, poor transparency and a “King Cnut” emphasis on heavy engineering as an environmental fix-all as reasons to be worried. [...]
But for Paskal, this is a sign China is not prepared to admit that its richest – and perhaps most prestigious – mainland city, home to glittering skyscrapers and the Maglev bullet train, is at risk of catastrophe as climate change rewrites the rules of the game. It is “very hard to imagine” that a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina won’t happen at some point here, she said, pointing out that Shanghai shares many similarities with New Orleans: aside from rising sea-levels, both cities sit in typhoon pathways and on sinking river deltas – Shanghai has dropped by more than 1.8 metres since 1921. Meanwhile, chemical plants strung along the coast and interspersed with high-rise apartment blocks – built thanks to malleable zoning laws and pally relations between local officials and developers – mean a “Fukushima-type” scenario could also be on the cards, she said.
“If China wants true stable development that will show real security to its population it needs to be honest about what areas are going to stable and what areas aren’t. They can’t continue to band-aid a place like Shanghai, because it will get hit and when it gets hit the implications are humanitarian but they’re also economic and political.”