China in the Contemporary World
Environmental Pollution Challenges Facing China
China is one of the largest developing countries in the world with an annual GDP of 10% for over a decade. Its rapid industrialization has posed a significant challenge to its environmental and public health. Being the largest source of carbon emissions worldwide, the air in many of its cities has become too contaminated to meet the international health standard and hence increased the rate of cancer to a point where the air measuring station can only term it as beyond index (Shapiro, 2016). China’s environmental problems which include water shortages and pollution, outdoor and indoor air pollution, soil pollution and desertification have become more pronounced and are exposing China residents to a substantial life-threatening health risks.
China being the largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide has posed a threat to outdoor and indoor air pollution making it the biggest environmental threat to public health in the country. Air pollution rating above 300 when measured by the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality scale proves that the air is unsafe to be inhaled and therefore residents are strictly advised to stay indoors with their air purifiers on and running. Research has also been able to show the health effects of outdoor air pollution in China which include increases in respiratory symptoms and premature mortality (Shapiro, 2016). World health organization, on the other hand, estimated that outdoor air pollution in China is approximately associated with 3000 premature deaths every year. In the rural parts of China, coal and biomass fuel are highly used in stoves, and this ends up producing substantial indoor air pollution that pose adverse health effects including cancer and respiratory infection. According to WHO, fuel used in Chinese households approximately results to 420,000 premature deaths annually (Shapiro, 2016).
With water being the primary source of life, in China, it’s cause for serious health concern and poses as an environmental challenge due to its shortage and pollution. Most of Chinas Rivers and lakes contain water that is unfit for human consumption. With the significantly increased population, the available pure water supplies are not able to cater to all the residents and leave two-thirds of China’s population suffering from water shortage (Shapiro, 2016). In January, the Huangpu River suffered a chemical accident that leaked benzene, a known dangerous cancer-causing agent, into a tributary of the Huangpu River where thousands of bloated dead pigs were found floating. This being the river that supplies Shanghai drinking water, it left 20 people hospitalized, and since the drinking water could no longer be trusted, residents had to rely on fire trucks to deliver safe drinking water. China uses 70% of the countries water supply in agriculture, 20% on the coal industries leaving only 10% of the citizens hence challenging the survival of the nation (Morrison, 2013).
Other environmental threats in China include climate change which happens to be unavoidable in China due to the air pollution caused by the emission of greenhouses gases and coal burning. Desertification is another threat to the Chinese nation. With its high population, forests have been converted to farming lands and also used for hydroelectric and other infrastructure projects hence leaving china’s forest at a high survival risk. This has led to a landscape of bare soil and rocks, and at a threat of dust storms, mud-choked rivers and eroded topsoil. Approximately one million square miles of China is now under desertification, and it keeps expanding each year by about 950 square miles (Morrison, 2013).
In other words, the environmental degradation and the threats it poses to the Chinese nation which includes air pollution, water scarcity, deforestation, soil degradation, and much other life-endangering environmental occurrences such as soil erosion and landslides. These are some of the effects of environmental degradation that have led to the tremendous loss of many lives and property, yet neither the Chinese government nor its citizens seem to care much. Research established that China has reduced indoor and outdoor air quality in the large cities which is believed to result from uncontrolled industrial and motor vehicle air pollution. Water pollution in the downstream water supplies, lack and scarcity of fresh drinking water and decaying sewerage systems are effects of lack of proper regulations to streamline the drainage systems and prevent water pollution (Shapiro, 2016). The government has failed to take necessary action to ensure there is a reduced rate of pollution and that is the reason China is among the top most pollutant nations in the world. The government should, therefore, put more attention in the environmental degradation to prevent it from surpassing the country’s economic progress if the trend further continues. It is considered necessary that the Chinese government undertakes more severe actions that will limit pollution and promote environmental conservation within the nation.
Contemporary China: Challenges, Responses and Hopes
China is one of the fastest growing economies which evidently the country with the largest population in the world. The increased population, globalization, and industrialization have ushered the state into a state of rapid economic growth whereby it is expected to be among the dominant economies in the future. However, all these achievements come with a set of challenges that the nation has to overcome in order to remain sustainable (Cao, 2014). Among the most significant challenges that China is facing today is the growing income inequality gap, unemployment, loss of culture, westernization, inflation, the decline in health/education standards and increased corruption.
To begin with, China had one of the best health care services in the world whereby the two essential health indicators infant mortality and life expectancy rates were better than most of the countries in the world. The world health organization (WHO) presented Chinas health program as a model for the world in the Alma Ata conference in 2000.This proved that indeed China had one of the best healthcare programs in the world at that time. However, with the increased population, Chinas healthcare standards have significantly gone down. Failure of the government to improve the health sector has been one of the leading challenges facing the Chinese people recently. Besides that, the cost of the regular healthcare programmes has skyrocketed increasing by about fifteen times what was paid initially. This has seen the overall costs increase from about 14.32 billion Yuan to 662.33 billion Yuan which is way too high even after consideration of inflation (Shapiro, 2016). Notably, most of the health facilities have focused on making a profit and not the provision of quality healthcare to the people of China.
When it comes to the education sector, the quality of education has significantly decreased as the costs increases which have prompted many Chinese citizens to consider studying abroad. The education system has concentrated on covering the syllabus and does not take time to equip the students with necessary skills that can be applied in the outside world. China has one of the highest populations in the world, and it is expected to keep increasing. The increased population has led to the increase in demand for resources especially manufactured and processed products (Shapiro, 2016). Besides that, there is the overreliance on imports which has a detrimental effect on the Chinese economy. This has led to an increased rate of production and consequently increased rate of environmental pollution. Statistics from research conducted in the Chinese economy reveal that about 300 million people in China use contaminated water and only about 20% of the solid waste produced in the country is properly disposed. When it comes to sewage, only about 7% of the sewage is treated (Shapiro, 2016). This is one of the most significant challenges to the Chinese government and the people.
The economic development of China has come along with increased industrialization and mining. This has consequently led to the increase of industrial and mining accidents among other negative environmental impacts such as deforestation, desertification and soil erosion. About 27% of the land in the nation has been converted to deserts due to industrial activity and mining. The air pollution rate in China has significantly increased by about 19% in the past decade. This increase is attributed to elements such as sandstorms, a rise in construction and industrial projects, and more cars (Morrison, 2013).
The Chinese government has been working hard to counter these challenges and ensure that the Chinese people get the best services. To begin with, the government has rolled out a health program that is meant to eradicate all the problems faced in the health sector and reduce the cost of healthcare in the nation (Shapiro, 2016). This program entails the provision of funds and incentives to the healthcare sector to enhance improvement of service delivery. Secondly, the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao recently announced that the government has dedicated its efforts to revolutionize the education by sponsoring about 14 million students from the poorest counties in the nation (Cao, 2014). This program is meant to ensure that education is accessible even to the poor people who cannot afford the costs. Besides that, the government has also started the revision of the curriculum to ensure that students attain necessary skills that can be productive in the market. The sponsorship plan is expected to continue until all poor and rural students get educated.
Responding to the rapid climatic and environmental changes, China has come up with many initiatives and policies which are meant to reduce the rate of pollution and encourage environmental conservation. One of these policies is the pollution regulation policy whereby the government has set a limit on the acceptable rates of pollution from industries which is in accordance with the 2030 climatic change initiative (Cao, 2014). The government has also embarked on establishment of water recycling and waste disposal plants. When it comes to the economy which is hugely affected by overreliance on imports, president Xi Jinping recently urged the people to shift to domestic consumption which will not only promote the growth of local industries but will also play a significant role in economic improvement.
China hopes to grow to become one of the best economies in the world. This can be easily achieved as the nation has numerous potentials such as the availability of affordable raw materials and cheap labor. Some of the companies have already shifted their operations to China which is a significant boost to its economy. The Chinese health sector is expected to significantly improve within the next few years after the complete implementation of the health program which was currently commissioned by the president. The future of China can only be bright as the strategies currently applied by the government will not only improve the living standards of the chines citizens but will also encourage foreign investment and reduce the level of unemployment in the society.
Cao, S., Lv, Y., Zheng, H., & Wang, X. (2014). Challenges facing China’s unbalanced urbanization strategy. Land Use Policy, 39, 412-415.
Morrison, W. M. (2013). China’s economic rise: history, trends, challenges, and implications for the United States. Current Politics and Economics of Northern and Western Asia, 22(4), 461.
Shapiro, J. (2016). Environmental Degradation in China under Mao and Today: A Comparative Reflection. Global Environment, 9(2), 440-457.