China's Economic and Its Effects on the Environment

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How far has the acceleration of economic growth produced environmental deterioration in China? China is one of the world’s economic powerhouses as it became large enough to influence the world market, dynamic enough to contribute to the world’s economy and sufficiently open to trade and capital flows to have a major impact on other countries. With the world’s largest current account surpluses and foreign exchange reserves and economic growth that have averaged at 10% the past thirty years, China’s economic growth developed under the intense economic reforms of the late seventies, resulting in accelerated growth. This is clear as its Gross Domestic Product in 2006 was thirteen times higher than what it had been in 1978. This economy was built on notably high saving rates, a huge labour pool and a powerful work ethic, allowing China to become the world’s largest exporter of technology goods and largest manufacturer in the world. This rapid economic growth did have negative effects on China’s environment, as growing Chinese industry resulted in a higher need for energy use. This high energy consumption from the reform years resulted in China’s environment becoming deteriorated. The rapid economic growth has resulted in China’s being on ‘the cusp of environmental catastrophe’ as 300 million people have no access to clean drinking water. For many Chinese regions diminishing water supplies are an increasing social, political and economic problem. These water shortages have resulted mainly due to the increase demand of water from the agriculture sector as well as the residential areas. In Northern China we see how this agriculture is heavily responsible for these water shortages as eighty-five percent of the arable land is irrigated. Compared to the ten percent of irrigated arable land we see in the United States, it is clear that Chinese use of water on agriculture is extensive. Increasing use of water in the residential areas has also contributed to these water shortages. From 1988 to 1998, the use of tap water increased by twenty-five percent in China, contributing to the growing problem of water supply. The increase in water demand as also increased water pollution, which has also become a serious problem in China, resulting in rivers such as the Yangtze suffering a deep decline in its water quality. Local and multinational corporations take advantage of the Chinese relaxed environmental policies, resulting in industrial waste being dumped in Chinese rivers, streams and coastal waters. As the focus in China was increasing and maintaining economic strength, environmental policies were not the first priority, but this has resulted in most of the Chinese water supply suffering from ‘surface water pollution’. According to the State of Environment (SEO) report of 2008, it was shown that seven major rivers’ pollution problems were so extensive that the water that they contained could not be used for anything. This report further showed that cyan bacteria had proliferated in Taihu Lake which then caused severe drinking water crises in Wuxi City. The SEO report showed that China’s increased water pollution also affected the biodiversity within these water bodies, adding to the environmental deterioration. It is clear that China’s accelerated environmental growth created the perfect environment for economic success, but the reform policies did not leave any room for any environmental action, in fact the environment was undermined by these reforms as corporations were not restrained by any environmental policy and their production rates were able to remain low, producing high profit rates. Chinese economic resulted in its domestic and international demands for timber products skyrocketing. Although organisations such as the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) were developed, these organisations were unable to develop binding authority especially among Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs), which have fuelled China’s...
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