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How China’s Rapid Economic Growth Affects Their Environmental Condition

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Apaar Anand
January 24th, 2014
Humanities – Cultural Studies
Research Paper
Modern China (Paper)

How China’s Rapid Economic Growth Affects Their Environmental Condition

In the last three decades, the Chinese people have drastically transformed their country from a once poverty stricken country into an economic powerhouse. However, the impact this growth has had on their environment is quite appalling. The Republic of China’s rapid economic growth has negatively affected the countries’ environmental status. Increased emissions from factories and an over-reliance on coal are ruining China’s air and water. The impact on the health of China’s population will be devastating, in human and financial terms, and will undo the Chinese “economic miracle” if not addressed.

Before one dives into the reasons for China’s household environmental crisis, one must understand why China’s economy has grown so much. China has become the world’s largest exporter of goods in the world. It is also the largest manufacturing economy in the world, continually beating it’s rival in this category, the service-driven economy of the United States. Chinese citizens are willing to do lots of work for average pay in China, which is annually about $6,091 annually. This makes it easier for foreign companies from the US, UK and other nations to cheaply outsource their production to China. This increased factorial production leads to more carbon emissions and coal use. When chairman Mao Zedong died in 1976, the Cultural Revolution allowed a central shift in China’s international policy. In 1978, the Chine embarked on the journey that has lead them to the uncharted territory they are in today. Since then, the most visible sign of environmental pollution in the country is the thick haze that periodically inhabits China’s major cities. In 2007, the most thorough study of air pollution around the world showed the 16 of the most polluted cities in the world were in China. In fact most Chinese cities don’t even come close to meeting the government standards. The Chinese Medical Association recently said that air pollution from factories is the biggest health problem, causing life threatening diseases like lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Chinese emissions don’t only Carbon dioxide, the include the lesser known, just as harmful Sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, liquid that has destroyed the countries large water reserves. Overall The rampant air and water pollution stems from the fact that China is overly reliant on coal. Most of the world’s biggest economic powerhouses use coal as one of their main sources of energy but not the way China does. The nation on average supplies 70% of its energy needs with coal. By contrast countries like Japan, India, and the United States are not as dependent on the source. In some respects burning coal is the gateway to many other environmental hindrances, mostly in the air. Burning coal is responsible for seventy percent of the soot, three quarters of he sulfur dioxide and eighty percent of the carbon dioxide in China. However the economic reforms that have been implemented by the government have caused four times the amount of coal to be used. Despite the multiple pushes and stride made by Chinese political leaders to install scrubber systems (machines that control air pollution), the sources of coal burning are diffuse and difficult to control because most come from inefficient industrial burners used in outdated factories and power plants. China’s over use of coal has also affected their water resources. The coal industry and workstations require water in order to function and they are currently using seventeen percent of the countries’ water resources. Most of these coal plants are in the north and the basin has become very dry. Since 1990, half of China’s rivers have dried up, and a large portion of the remaining water is contaminated. If there isn’t enough water, there is a fear that the ability for the economy to grow will be limited. Overall China’s integration into the world economy has been a double-edged sword into the world economy in regard to the countries’ air and water quality, especially in the economic sector in the southern and northern parts of the nation.
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