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Give up copying US standards without question

(Global Times)

10:03, January 09, 2012

Over the past two weeks, public feedback was sought on new safety standards for school buses. In the wake of a string of accidents, experts from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) drafted new safety technique specifications of school buses in December, based on US and EU standards.

Public opinion is divided on the new standards.

School bus makers and industry watchers doubt the feasibility of these new standards, saying that hiking costs would make school buses unaffordable in rural China. The US-modeled standards also mean that most smaller bus makers will be barred from the market.

These views, however, have stirred up anger among netizens who are questioning "why can't we enjoy US standards when it comes to human lives?"

Similar debates keep taking place. China lags behind the US on various standards - air quality measurement, mine safety, milk safety, poverty alleviation, personal property declaration and so on. The idea is alluring that China presses on with adapting advanced US standards and improves all unsatisfying aspects of social life. However, this is far more complicated than drafting stipulations on paper.

China has to continue its ongoing navigation between international standards and its own reality on the ground. This is also why the MIIT said new standards should be integrated while still reckoning with costs over the weekend when discussing the draft regulations.

Some standards today, like the latest poverty alleviation standard and government emergency response mechanism, were unimaginable just a few years ago. But public demand for using better standards from developed countries is unprecedented. The government has to learn from them and keep pushing for higher standards. Adopting PM 2.5 in air quality monitoring follows this trend.

On the other hand, it is not always good to copy Western standards. Take the US-style big school buses. Their sheer size makes it tough for them to navigate the narrow roads of rural China. Similarly in cities, if school buses carry a "stop" sign like their US counterparts and enjoy right of way, how many would then complain about the perturbed traffic?

China should endeavor to develop its own standards. It should have its own schedule and rhythm to steadily reach higher standards. Over the past decades, the nation has developed numerous standards. We need to have more confidence, rather than simply copying foreign standards.


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