A dead pig floats in the Shaghai River on the outskirts of Shanghai, China on Monday (© AP)
China has another environmental mess, with more possible long-term financial impact on that nation and the global economy.

Authorities in Shanghai are trying to determine who dumped over 3,000 dead pigs in the city's Huangpu River. A swine virus was reportedly discovered in one of the carcasses, but local officials say it's of no danger to humans and that the local water supply -- part of which comes from the river -- is safe for drinking.

Many Chinese are taking a cynical and wry look at the situation. Some online wag posted on a Chinese micro-blogging site that the pigs sacrificed themselves while taking a stand on the country's notorious air pollution or to protest the rampant use of antibiotics on livestock.

But the dead pigs are just the latest serious example of how China's overheated economy is sacrificing environmental, legal and safety controls for the sake of short-term profits.

China's authoritarian government is still hypersensitive about getting any scrutiny. Reuters recently reported about an attorney, Dong Zhengwei, who was banned from accessing years-old data about soil pollution because it was a "state secret."

But growing outrage over worsening air pollution in China, poor water quality, tainted produce and other health issues have given the public a chance to speak out.

"In other areas it is still dangerous," Gary Liu, a professor at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai told Reuters. "But pollution is a relatively safe area, because people have enough justification to fight against the government and they can easily get enough public support because everybody is in the same country, breathes the same air."

The Washington Post points to a new study by three Deutsche Bank economists, which says China is capable of implementing aggressive reforms that could ease its air pollution problems without damaging its economy. But as The Post reports, "most of China’s current attempts to curb pollution are failing badly -- the country is on pace for ever-higher levels of smog that could throttle the nation’s economy and trigger out-of-control protests."

Chinese officials are apparently getting the hint.

"Our country, in a very short time over the past 30 years, has achieved brilliant economic achievements," Xin Chunying, with the National People's Congress, told reporters over the weekend. "But at the same time, we have paid a heavy price with the environment. This price must stop, it has to be reduced, we must say 'no' to the status quo."


More on moneyNOW