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China's new leaders offer green hope

China's scientists have high hopes that the country's new leaders (Nature 491, 161; 2012) will accelerate efforts to tackle environmental pollution.

The proportion of China's Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) educated in economics and social science has increased to 86% from 22% in 5 years. This jump reflects the social problems caused by the country's rapid development from an agricultural economy (Nature 488, 261–262; 2012).

Engineering solutions to water pollution and scarcity, for example, include construction of large reservoirs and transfer of water between river basins, but these have come with serious socioeconomic and environmental costs.

China's new leaders should recognize that non-structural approaches can be more sustainable and ecologically beneficial (P. H. Gleick Water Int. 25, 127–138; 2000). With almost one-third of PSC members also having a legal background, green protests about pollution and resource management can now be properly handled through the judicial system.

As well as increased investment, prescient actions through effective legislation are needed to deliver sustainable long-term economic benefit.

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Correspondence to Hong Yang.

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Yang, H., Flower, R. & Thompson, J. China's new leaders offer green hope. Nature 493, 163 (2013).

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