5 Effects of Globalisation on Air Pollution in China

In this article, we take a look at the effects of globalisation on air pollution in China. China has been known in recent years to be the most polluted country in the world and this is because of globalisation.

The increase in demand for Chinese manufactured goods which are cheap because of the cheap labour increases the amount of carbon coal burning in China. The burning of coal produces carbon dioxide which pollutes the air causing smog, acid rain and global warming.

Globalisation accelerates growth but also amplifies disruption. Globalisation causes an increase in demographics, urbanisation and digitisation and has some negative externalities which are global warming especially by air pollution, volatility and inequality.

China strives to keep its place as a global leader in trade. They brought about some in-demand innovations like moving from outward FDI to LED. China opens up the domestic market, providing better corporate governance and they are a global provider of public goods.

As a result of globalisation, China has enjoyed rapid economic growth. They have put major investment in the public market and established an export model. But the issue here is that more economic growth does increase pollution and it does

In the northern part of China, it’s very dry and the people who live in the north have to burn coal to keep warm in the winter. That’s why the air is so badly polluted. There are also a lot of heavy industry factories there, so it produces a lot of emissions.

In the people’s republic of china, where a mask has long predated Covid-19. A statement by Rhodium Group showed that in 2019, China’s emissions not only eclipsed that of the US-the world’s second-largest emitter at 11%.

But also, for the first time, surpassed the emissions of all developed countries combined. China is home to suffocating air pollution. China remains dependent on coal to energize the ever-expanding industrial base. It builds new coal-fired plants every week to supply the world’s need for manufactured goods (globalisation).

It imports coal from its regional neighbours like Australia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Russia.

China has been struggling to deal with record levels of smog over Beijing. Recently, officials in several Chinese cities announced plans to trade carbon credits to reduce air pollution.

For many years, China considered economic growth more important than the environment. The nation remains hungry for energy. But, it has also become the world’s biggest producer of carbon gases.

One of the many things that China is known for is bad air quality. But, how bad is it?

How bad is the air pollution in Beijing, China?

At its’ worse Beijing air quality is very hazardous, in 2013, the air quality was deemed unhealthy or hazardous for over half the year, peaking in Beijing at 35 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit.

It was so bad that Premier Li Keqiang declared a  “war on pollution” at China’s annual high profile National People’s Congress.  Five years later in March 2019 as Premier Li again opened the NPC meetings, the smog outside was still 10 times worse than what the WHO defines as healthy.

Even if China cracks down pollution like never before, the country remains one of the world’s worse polluters.

China overtook the USA as the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gases in 2006, helping put the globe on a part to miss United Nations’s targets aimed at stemming the rise in the earth’s temperature.

In China, there is cheap power for coal and cheap factory production that is powered by coal and it’s helping China turn into this economic giant that has helped produce cheap goods for the rest of the world and helped drive the world’s economy.

So in a sense, Chinese people are paying a tax for breathing this bad air for the benefit of consumers all over the world.

The WHO estimates more than 1 million Chinese died from dirty air in 2016. another study put the tally even higher at 4,000 deaths a day. Pollution is said to have been the main cause of social unrest in recent years with social media helping to amplify complaints.

On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like online platform, people blamed factories for polluting the air and the government for not doing enough “Enterprises polluted the air, but people have to pay the price”.

In February 2015, a Chinese investigative journalist published a self-funded documentary about the country’s air pollution problem. More than 100 million people watched “Under the Dome” before it was banned from Chinese websites six days after its release.

Shortly after, President Xi Jinping pledged to unleash an iron hand to punish environmental polluters.  In the last few years, the government has spent billions of Yuan tightening environmental regulations scrapping coal-fired plants and switching millions of homes and businesses from coal to natural gas.

The regulations have worked. The US state department monitors particulate matter in the sir in its Beijing embassy and from the data gotten in 2018, that year was the lowest level in that decade. And the winter of 2017 and 2018 was one of the best as far air quality goes.

It’s not perfect but it’s much much better than the heyday of 2013 pollution problems. China is now the world’s biggest investor in green energy. And as of 2018, China spent over $100 billion which was 56% more than the US. Initiatives have included supporting the electric vehicle industry by providing subsidies for EV buyers.

And helping build out infrastructure that allows electric cars to drive and charge around their cities. EV sales are huge in China. It’s the biggest market in the world for electric vehicles.

It’s not just cars, but electric buses are a huge deal in China.

China bets big on solar energy as well. In 2019, over a third of the world’s solar panels are estimated to be installed in Chine. But the war on pollution promises to be along with one.

Four decades of breakneck economic growth have turned China into the world’s biggest carbon emitter and it’s still going to depend on coal for years to come.

Air pollution can be deadly. It kills more than a million people every year in China. And officials can’t cover it up, even though they might try.

In a lot of places in the world, air pollution reached dangerously high levels. According to the World Health Organisation, 91% of the world’s population is exposed to levels of air pollution that are harmful.

In China, there are a lot of cities where the air quality is so bad, it’s deadly. Air pollution claims an estimated 1.8 million lives every year.

According to data from AirVisual-a crowdsource air quality insight platform, China has the worst air in Eastern air. China has 53 major cities where the average air quality is considered unhealthy by WHO guidelines, that is where the Air Quality Index is above 150.

Places like Wujiaqu is the tiny city of just 100,000 people in the northern part of Xinjiang. That is China’s western region that’s home mainly to a Turkic ethnic minority known as the Uighurs.

It’s also home to some delightful soviet-style architecture. But, the air quality is pretty harmful having an estimated 157 on the Air Quality Index, which the WHO dubs “Unhealthy”.

But during winter periods, the air quality can be as high as 250, which is more unhealthy.

Another city is with unhealthy air quality if Linfen. Linfen is in China’s Shanxi province. Today, Linfen is only a moderately polluted city.

But, a decade ago, it was known as the world’s most polluted city. But today, the city has an air quality of an average of 158. residence and report being able to see the sun sometimes.

The air quality of Linfen is that bad because they are into the mining, transportation and use of coal.

Another city with bad air quality in China is Baoding. Baoding is in China’s Hebei province. With a population of around 11 million, it’s a mid-sized Chinese city with an air quality index of 159.

China is the biggest energy consumer in the world, and its main source of electricity is coal.

Anyang is another city with a bad air quality detrimental to human health. They are a city of around 5 million in the Henan province.

It made headlines in February of 2019 as the most polluted city of the month. At one point during the month, the air quality reached more than 500 in the air quality index going off the charts.

Another city with an air quality index detrimental to human health is Handan. Handan is located in China’s northern Hebei province, the average air quality is 161. on some days, the smog is so bad that it swallows buildings.

This city has come up with a solution. The solution is a large cannon to blast out a mist of water to fight smog and clean the air.

Aksu is another city with an air quality index detrimental to human health. Having an average air quality index of 161, Aksu is no place to breathe deep.

Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province is another city within the air quality index detrimental to human health. The city is about 160 miles southwest of Beijing. It’s a  busy industrial base for the steel and chemical production company.

The average air quality index for Shijiazhuang is 162. in 2014, Shijiazhuang made the headlines when a resident became the first person in China to sue the government over dangerously high levels of smog. Plaintiff Li Guixin sued the local government for about $1,500.

It was to compensate for what he spent to counter the effects of the air pollution, including buying a face mask and air purifiers.

Xingtai is another city in the Hebei province and also a major centre for China’s steel industry that is fueled by coal. The city has an air quality index of  162 which is detrimental to human health.

Kashgar is another city with an air quality index detrimental to human health. Kashgar is often considered the cultural heart of Xinjiang. In 2018 the city had an average air quality index of 172.

The most polluted city in China is Hotan. Hotan is also a city in Xinjiang, and it is located within the giant Taklimakan Desert. The average air quality of Hotan is 182, with spikes of 358 in the dry seasons.

The air pollution in Hotan is not just caused by pollution from heavy industries but also by sand storms.

5 Effects of Globalization on Air Pollution in China

Globalisation places stress on the demand for energy to meet the growing need for cheap products produced by China. This increases the air pollution in that area reason being that the country relies on coal for the production of energy.

Indeed globalisation has hampered dangerously on the air quality through the emissions of coal and the skyrocketing increase in road vehicles. The list below is 5 effects of globalisation on air pollution in China.

  • Low Visibility
  • Social Unrest
  • Health Problems 
  • Death
  • Economic Damage

1. Low Visibility

Low visibility is one of the effects of globalisation on air pollution in China. Low visibility is a pressing issue as a result of air pollution caused by globalisation. This has led to areas like Beijing having their roads and playgrounds shut amid the smog after China’s coal spike.

They have in recent times faced scrutiny of their environmental record that make or break international climate talks. The world leaders recently gathered in the COP26 negotiation bill in 2021 as one of the last chances to avert catastrophic climate change.

The visibility in some areas has been reduced to less than 200 metres according to the country’s weather forecast.

2. Social Unrest

Social unrest is one of the effects of globalisation on air pollution in China. Air pollution is said to have been the cause of some of the social unrest in China as some of the Chinese citizens have become weary of coal emissions which have led to massive air pollution in the country.

3. Health Problems

Various health problems are one of the effects of globalisation on air pollution in China. 16 of the 20 worst polluted places are in China. 70% of Chinese cities cannot meet their air quality standards. The burning of coal is the main cause of air pollution. Construction leading to urbanisation and globalisation is a major cause of air pollution in China.

There have been many health problems like pesticide exposure, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung and stomach cancer, reduced lung functioning, Irritation of eyes, nose, mouth and throat, Asthma attacks, Coughing and wheezing, Reduced energy levels, Headaches and Dizziness, Cardiovascular problems.

And the issue here is that they don’t have any protection against the dust. The acute smell comes from the waste of these factories. One can easily smell all the sulphur dioxide.

Because the polluted cities are located in a basin area, therefore, the air cannot flow well. The polluted air doesn’t disperse, thereby worsening the pollution problem. Many elderly people have bad lungs as a result of pollution and over time, they develop heart failure.

4. Death

Death is one of the effects of globalisation on air pollution in China. A recent publication has shown that air pollution claims the lives of about 1.8 million people in China every year.  People die from air pollution-related diseases every day.

5. Economic Damage

Economic damage is one of the effects of globalisation on air pollution in China. The GDP of China has indeed been rising by 10% since the 1970s when Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms.

But, the economic growth that has come with globalisation is but for a moment as globalisation puts a strain on the energy demand of China consequently leading to more air pollution. Air pollution significantly raises morbidity and mortality rates indicated by MIT and the Global Burden of Disease studies.

The high rate of mortality translates into higher medical costs and an increase in missed working days consequently reducing productivity.

Additionally, air pollution results in resource depletion. This eventually results in a reduction in the arable land in China consequently lowering crop productivity.

The water systems are contaminated by mercury released during the combustion of coal. This contaminates the water, affects fishes, rice, vegetables, and fruits; and airborne pollutants kill off trees and forests.

Air pollution also affects the structural buildings accelerating deterioration. This calls for worry as the country’s precious historical monuments are bound to be affected by these dangerous chemicals.

There are indirect economic effects of the polluted air to consider as well. There will be a decrease in tourism as foreigners would no longer be attracted to the polluted cities because of the unhealthy air.

Foreign visitors to China were down in 2013 by 5% in the country as a whole and by a full 10.3% in Beijing. Media-drenched events like the January 2013 airpocalypse have likely played a sizable role here.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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