• Zhangjiakou becoming China's first renewable energy pilot zone may help solve the city's air pollution problem.

Zhangjiakou becoming China's first renewable energy pilot zone may help solve the city's air pollution problem. (Photo : New York Times)

Fortune commentator Nicola Persico believes that China can learn a thing or two from the British when it comes to providing solution in fighting pollution.

According to Persico, a Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences professor at the Kellogg School of Management in Northwestern University, the Chinese government should not fear change for with it comes some solutions to some major problems.

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This has been proven by Britain during the 1820s when it suffered from severe environmental and health issues brought about by massive urbanization and industrialization--much like what China is today.

Back then, Britain's pollution dilemma came from the burning of coal, while some water-borne diseases surfaced because of the lack of sewers and sanitation, especially in Manchester.

This resulted in a life expectancy of only 27 years in the city, while the rest of Britain has an average of 41 years.

Aside from that, all residents of the city suffered from similar industrialization-related diseases and epidemics such as typhus and cholera, whether they are rich or poor.

At that time, the problem would have been easily treated by simply building sewers and regulating industrial activity, but the government of Manchester was widely controlled by money and power-hungry people, leaving the elites with no choice but to choose democratization over oligarchy.

Not surprisingly, this change brought about positive effects on the city and even helped the new democratic government provide necessary goods for the people.

"Can the history of 19th century Britain offer insight into today's China? Arguably, yes. Today's Chinese elites are harmed by the pollution and public health problems," wrote Persico, who is also the director of the Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics & Management.

He added that the Chinese elites may also see the same thing the Brits saw back in 19th-century Manchester.

"To make this happen, the elites may see it as necessary to accept a degree of power devolution to the masses: democratization, perhaps under the guise of decentralization," he stated.