Monday, August 27, 2007

More on China

Yesterday's NYTimes had an article on economic growth and pollution in China. It is hard to imagine how fast China's economy has been growing and even harder to imagine just how dirty the air and water must be. It begs the question - at what price growth??

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

A quick and dirty summation:

My biggest concern with China right now has to do with its rapid expansion. As the Chinese population continues to grow and develop, it is only a matter of time before the people will desire the everyday luxuries that citizens of the developed world take for granted. If the Chinese follow trends like those of the United States, it is only a matter of time before resources are excessively depleted and pollution has the ultimate chokehold on the environment. For example, many American families have more than one car. If the Chinese adopt this trend it would take an exponential amount of resources to quench the thirst of China's enormous population. Following this trend, pollution rises, something China and the rest of the world obviously cannot afford.

On the economic side, if Chinese car companies can obtain most of the domestic business, they would profit immensely.

Initial supply and demand: income increases with development, domestic demand increases as a result of increasing incomes, domestic supply increases to meet the increasing demand(drumroll)...market equilibrium shifts up and the surrounding environmental quality plummets!!! Awesome!

There are many other dimensions to this dilemma, however, it is too late to dive into all of them right now.

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Bobby Thomas said...

I can not believe how the people in China are living. When only 1 percent of the 560 million people in the city breathe safe air, you know that something has got to be wrong. The government their is so tied up with making money and growing, that they are killing the citizens that live there. I feel like the United States is a very polluted country, but after reading this, I realize how much further ahead we are as a country. At the end of the story you really understand how China feels about Environmental problems. When the EPA in China has 200 full-time employees, and the U.S. has 18,000 full-time employees.

Bottom line is, China needs to start making changes or it will be to late.

noel keith said...

-Seem to set numerical conservation/pollutant targets and not follow through with enforcement
at local/regional levels.
-Unwilling to Continue with regional GDP vs pollution cost
comparison, government quickly ended project at prospect of results calculating net production at zero.
-Newer coal burning facilities do not meet current clean air standards in the west. Or are they very efficient, both facts due to setup cost.
-Chinese industry largely uses 4-10 times as much water as the average industrialized area.
1/3 of all river water has been deemed useless for agriculture/industry.
-no insulation?
-95% of new structures don't meet energy codes?
-Polluting businesses have developed into powerful special interests...
-Concludes with enviornmentalists being arrested to keep everybody in line for the 2008 olympics,
usually referred to as an excuse to clear the skies, ironic.

I wanted to point out the mentioned effectual changes ignored by the 'powers that be' only interested in the status quo (10%+ growth, commanding industry, party safely in office).
Perhaps the worst problem is not approx. 1 billion people experiencing rapid economic growth and not being willing to stem the tide of it, but the unwillingness to stem the tide of enviornmental externalities.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of lead poisoning in China, I was watching the Daily Show (I know, the ultimate news source) and saw a segment about Mattel recalling toys that were made in China and shipped to the US. Here is an article if anyone is interested http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12778928

It seems that developed countries are allowing these developing countries to pollute as a benefit for cheaper labor and manufacturing costs. Developing countries are so eager to boost their economy, concern about pollution has taken a back burner. Unfortunately, as we heard in class today, China will get worse before it will get better. -Amanda Johnson

Russell Jaskot said...

With the rate of China's population growth the environmental concerns should have been addressed a long time ago. I heard the only reason they are really beginning to take a look at the environmental impacts they are causing is because of the Olympics being held in Beijing in 2008. I read an article discussing how they are now on a system where only certain cars can drive on certain days to help cut down on emissions.

Trevor said...

This article reminds me of a chapter I read last year from E.O. Wilson's book "Future of Life." Wilson describes how China is the most important country in the world from an environmental aspect. In the next few decades, the Chinese will face some the most severe environmental problems of all time. How they respond to immense pollution, vast water shortages, and incredible overpopulation will guide future nations' environmental policies. Hopefully their government will step up and put the people before wal-mart. I'm keeping my fingers crossed however because those communists can be stubborn. I'm still waiting for my Cuba Cruise.

I am also interested to see the 1600 times in Beijing next year. They might not be up to par.

Anonymous said...

I was astonished to see that a source blames China for pollution problems in South Korea, Japan, and even as far as Los Angeles. This is an eye opener that should make one here in the US become proactive about conservation efforts. Companies will act in self-interest, and resulting technological externalities can cause major problems. I feel that reading this article makes someone aware of the problems associated with externalities, and at first, one may be all for doing what is socially right for the environment. In the end, firms will continue to make the same decisions, even if they are poor for the environment, because they can benefit. Regulations and changes in every nation are necessary, but what are firms and individuals willing to give up?
Bret Patterson

Jason Welker said...

As an American living and teaching economics in China, the NYT article was not at all surprising, and mostly it was a relief to see the abominations going on here reported in a major paper like NYT. For those of us living here, the reality is terrifying and we often prefer not to think about it. China's goal of quadrupling its GDP in the next 25 years is even scarier when we consider the energy inputs that will be needed.

One hope for China lies, ironically, in the totalitarian government's will and ability to push through green reforms, even should they prove unpopular with industry. One benefit of nondemocratic states is that when the government wants to get things done, they get done, regardless of the will of the people. If the influence of corrupt officials and the nepotistic ties between industry and Beijing can be overcome, then the right policies with the right level of strong arming from beijing might start to level off the increase in environmental damage and cause things to improve.

Clearly a clean environment is a luxury good, and if I've learned anything about a rich china, it's that luxury goods are in high demand... hopefully that will prove the case for a clean environment soon!

Anonymous said...

Overpopulation has always been our biggest environmental problem; we've been discussing that for years. Bad air quality in China is not a new story being brought to the surface here; it's just we are only now listening to the statistics of how bad things have really gotten.

United States shouldn't be so quick to point fingers either; we have a lot to do with why China is becoming so polluted its just they are the ones risking their health.
The pollutants filling China's air is a result of the production of goods that are used by countries all over the world. They know this and why would they stop producing just to lose everything they have worked so hard for.

Not until a couple of decades ago, the Chinese lived in horrible conditions because of their lack of money. Children didn't have shoes, people didn't have food; most couldn't even heat their homes. Now that they can provide food, heat, and shelter why would they give that up? No one would. The Chinese feel that breathing in dirty, hazardous air is a small price to pay when you can actually have the money to afford a pair of shoes.

Also, what makes America think we are so much better than China? They may have more people than we do but they don't use as nearly as many resources that our country does. Most American families do have more than one car compared to Chinese families; who are lucky to have one car but usually travel by bike. We just need to stop finding someone else to blame for our environmental problems and work together as a world to find ways to reduce the pollution. I think it would help stimulate our economy because more people would be working to come up with ways to share the same resource and the area of land providing it. Because all and all the biggest concern here isn't just about China's economy or air pollution; it's about the world's as a whole. Air doesn't stay put, neither does water or dirt, just because it is in one location now doesn't mean it's always going to be there. Unfortantly, it also doesn't mean that it will be gone; it will have just moved to another part of the planet.

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