The article also mentions the tendency we observed to build grandiose national park structures instead of addressing underlying issues with impacts of development (see our blog from April 28, 2011, "National Parks of Yinchuan, Playgrounds or Preserves?"
We also interviewed an environmental NGO, "Green Camel Bell" in Lanzhou, where staff struggle to address such issues. University professor, Zhang Songlin, at Northwest Normal University told us, "In old times, the belief was that if you harm the environment, you would be punished. Now, increased GDP is the belief." Professor Songlin was not very hopeful, at that time, but perhaps these 2013 reforms are going to help.
See our blog from May 1, 2011: "Up the Yellow River to Lanzhou's Green Camel Bell."