Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

China's Rise and Environmental Degradation: The Way Out

Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

China's Rise and Environmental Degradation: The Way Out

Article excerpt

Abstract

China's remarkable economic success is accompanied by environmental degradation. Without a doubt, some of the most profound environmental changes are under way in China, but China's environmental problems are still severe. Nevertheless, scholars around the world have different perspectives on the major causes of China's environmental degradation, the domestic and global implications of environmental degradation, and how China should cope with its environmental issues. This paper will re-assess China's environmental problems and analyze its main causes in a global context, and argue that the current environmental degradation of China is actually an unavoidable result of China's modernization during globalization. Coping with China's environmental problems is a comprehensive project, and it may take a long time to accomplish the project's goal. Either ignorance of environmental problems or unrealistic expectations could damage the battle fighting China's environmental degradation.

Keywords. China, Environment, Chinese Economy.; Chinese Foreign Policy, China-US Relations

JEL classification . Q01, 053, 056, 057

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

1. Introduction

China has achieved remarkable economic success in the post-Mao era and its economy has grown tenfold since 1978. However, China's rise parallels environment degradation. Today, China faces looming environmental issues, as it is becoming one of the largest and most polluted countries in the world. According to the 2010 Environmental Performance Index released by Yale University and Columbia University at the World Economic Forum, China ranked 121 out of 163 countries on the list.1 The Chinese government realized the serious consequences of the environmental degradation and has launched a campaign on environmental protection. Some of the most profound environmental changes are under way in China, but its environmental problems are still severe. The dominant viewpoint in Western societies suggests that China economic growth has damaged the distribution of the earth's natural resources and energy and threatens the global economy and environment. They warn that the rest of the world cannot ignore China's environmental degradation, because, ultimately, the whole world is affected by many of the devastating catastrophes originating in China.2 To push the Chinese government to do more in improving China's environment, the U.S. Embassy in China has set up a monitoring point on the embassy roof in 2009 and posts hourly air-quality data on its popular Twitter feed. However, a senior Chinese official demanded in May 2012 that foreign embassies stop issuing air pollution readings, saying it was against the law and diplomatic conven- tions.3 This reflects the many differences between China and the Western societies on some critical issues: Do China's environmental problems threaten the international society? Is it possible for China to avoid environmental degradation while it is on rise during globalization? What are the main causes of China's environmental problems? Will China be able to solve its environmental problems in a short period of time? This paper will re-assess China's environmental problems and analyze their main causes in a global context, and argue that the current environmental degradation in China is actually an unavoidable result of China's modernization during globalization. Coping with China's environmental problems is a comprehensive project, and it may take a long time to accomplish the project's goal. 2. Environmental Degradation in China Today, China is facing almost all of the world's ecological challenges: climate change, desertification, deforestation, declining water resources, acid rain, soil erosion, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss, etc. Pollution is the basic problem amid all other environmental problems. The pollutants are broadly divided into seven types, including contaminated water, polluted air, solid waste, radioactive substances, noise, soil pollution and others. …

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