China’s pollution and its impacts

14 Mar

China has been continuously rising to becoming an economic superpower due its extensive manufacturing industry. Therefore they have extensive factories to meet their manufacturing demand. Coupled with their use of coal as a significant provider of their energy and China has some serious pollution issues to deal with. This article will therefore look at how China has become so polluted and how they hope to deal with this. It will also look at the consequences in the long term on social impacts, economic impacts and environmental impacts. 

It is thought air pollution in China is so bad it may resemble the effects of a nuclear winter. This basically means plants find it harder to photosynthesise which could have devastating effects on China both socially and economically, socially because a lack of photosynthesis could lead to the failure of crops and therefore a lack of food to the general public, and economically because the failure of crops will lead to no income for farmers and less for China to export as China is a net exporter of food. It is thought there are 250million rural laborers in China with agriculture contributing 12% towards the nations GDP in 2005. These figures could change however with the rising pollution levels. In Beijing, one of China’s main economic centres, there was a concentration of PM 2.5 particles of 505 micrograms per cubic meter when the safe level is considered to be 25 micrograms per meter by the World Health Organisation. Therefore there are also some serious social health problems as PM 2.5 particles refer to particles that are small enough to be absorbed into the lungs. Environmental impacts of this level are similar to that of crops, lack of photosynthesis means vegetation cannot function sufficiently (guardian, 2014).

Some of the main economic impacts upon China is the lack of tourism the country is seeing due to the pollution. People often see pictures spread through the use of the internet which has reduced their levels of tourism in major cities. On monday 24th february 2012 11,200 people visited Beijing’s popular tourist attraction The Forbidden City, which is only about a quarter of the average visits daily. Also foreign firms may not wish to deal with countries that are creating so much pollution. Therefore economic trading within the economy may falter and lower the increase of GDP growth. Environmental campaigners are considering Beijing’s pollution levels as ‘uninhabitable’.

Unfortunately it is not just the air that is being polluted but rivers too, the Huai river in 2001 experienced extreme levels of pollution when flooding forced 38 billion gallons of highly polluted water into the Huai (Economy 2012). Further downstream dead fish floated in the river due to the toxicity of the river. The river covers a large area and up to 150 million people rely on its water for drinking. Therefore the pollution created large social and environmental impacts. The region is also considered quite prosperous with GDP per capita’s going up to $1680 in places such as Jiangsu (Economy 2012). However the pollution ruined many of the farms downstream that rely on the water for irrigation services too creating a heavy economic burden on the region. 

With all this pollution it is vital that China find a way to reduce their emissions or make some sort of clean up attempt. One of the ways they are trying to do this is through the use of ‘pollution fighting drones’ (wsj 2012). After testing it appears the drones can stay airborn for up to 3 hours and carry 70kg of chemicals that can basically freeze the pollution particles in the air and cause them to fall to the ground. Although this may be a good way to rid the air of pollution, the falling frozen pollution particles would surely have some sort of negative impact on the ground below, so this is perhaps not the best option the government could take.

Factories that cause a lot of the pollution have come under scrutiny and China in the past have looked to punish thee factories with closures. In 2010 Chinese officials ordered the closing down of more than 2,000 polluting plants or factories or to meet environmental standards (guardian 2010). There are also other penalties such as barring firms from gaining loans, or revoking certain licenses so they cannot operate. However the reason for such a large output of pollution from Chinese could be their energy inefficiency which is estimated to be anywhere from 20% to 100% more than their US rivals (guardian 2010). Therefore it may be more appropriate to reduce the inefficiency of energy output so less energy is used by firms. Simply shutting down factories or plants as a whole brings social and economic problems in themselves, even though there are distinct environmental benefits. Shutting down factories leads to higher unemployment which means there will be less consumption which can have a negative effect on the Chinese economy as a whole. These people may then not be able to afford simple commodities leading to a lower quality of life. It may then be better to try and get firms to meet new standards through fines or incentives instead of complete shut downs.

Overall China seems to be trying to implement strategies to stop the pollution of its country. Their methods may cause other problems and their pollution levels still seem to be a problem so they must implement them more severely if they are going to see any real difference to their environmental quality. They should do this while also considering some of the other social and economic impacts discussed. The best solution would most likely be to heavily fine firms if they do not go below a maximum pollution level while taking further sanctions if they do not follow these new guidelines. This would therefore keep employment the same while also keeping environmental pollution low.




references (accessed 11/3/14) (accessed 11/3/14)


Economy, E. C. (2011). The river runs black: the environmental challenge to China’s future. Cornell University Press. accessed at (accessed 11/3/14) (accessed 11/3/14) (accessed 11/3/14)


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