China has long been considered to be amongst the upper level of the developed countries of the world. However, post-Mao China has seen some major changes and reform in the past century. Part of that change has been the shift to a more market based economy. Overall, most of the Chinese population’s living standards have vastly improved. Still, much of the economic growth has spurred significant environmental issues which can affect the overall life quality of the people. While the country intensely focuses on economic stability and sustainability, the health of the environment in China has greatly suffered. The perception among the western developed nations is that Chinese people are only focused on economic growth with little to no regard for environmental issues. There is also the perception that in post-communist China, the Chinese government puts such emphasis on growing and developing the economy and that the people of China have no real choice in environmental sustainability and opt away from environmental issues due to the governmental powers in place (Tilt, 12). However, these common perceptions could truly be misconceptions.
Through history there have been many developing countries which set goals for economic growth and then ignore or neglect the country’s environmental health. China’s overall industrial yield increased at a fast rate during the late 1990’s until 2004. The trend is still moving upward with no indication of impending decline. However, China almost solely depends on coal energy. Coal is a “dirty” energy and source of great pollution which is drastically affecting the Chinese environment (Tilt, 7). The government of China also does not readily support activism and there is a major lack of environmental “activist” stewards to bring needed environmental information to the country’s legislators or to call for environmental reform.
China’s push for economic development is illustrated by continual and worsening water pollution, as well as water shortages. The centralized government has not truly addressed these environmental issues due to ever increasing efforts to grow and sustain the economy (Tilt, 23). The Chinese people are left to suffer. Of China’s population, one-third lack access to a proper supply of clean drinking water due to the abundance of industrial pollution. As well, estimates indicate that 70% of China’s natural water resources (rivers and lakes, etc.) have polluted by 200 million tons of sewage and industry waste. These examples readily show how committed the government is to emphasizing economy over environment.
In addition, population and urban development are two more challenges for the environment that China is encountering because of the focus on economic sustainability. The estimated population of China is 1.3 billion people. The development rate, combined with the economic success rate, tend to suggest that pollution, consumerism, and urbanization are also continuing to climb at the same levels (Tilt,...