Over the past couple decades the world has evolved in an incredibly fast pace. Although this has been a very rewarding progression, we must understand that this evolution comes with a price of increasing resource use and pressures on the environment, such as the building up of greenhouse gases and pollution of the earth. China has become one of the leading countries in the world over the last couple decades, industrially, and economically, but also as well as the amount of pollution in the country.[1] The initial reasons to why pollution has become a serious issue in China, lies in the rapid industrilization of China since it’s rebirth into the “People’s republic of China” in 1949, and China’s lack of response to the problem to notice how deadly the consequences would be in the future.

In the year of 1949 the once “Republic of China” became the “People’s republic of China”, as the Communist party chairman Mao Zedong took power. His principles in ruling China, was that development and industrialization were the highest priority. Mao believed that by advancing in economic development was the only way to overcome what he perceived as the nation’s backward “feudal” past. He was certain that from the help of technology and science he would be able to lead his country towards a more successful future.[2] As China turned into the People’s republic of China, is was the beginning of a three decade long period of socialist central economy. Following the Soviets guiding principles, China now pursued industrialization under the Soviet-style. The process was heavely influenced by the Marxist ideology of social equity, which was “abolition of the separation of town and country”[3]

Deng Xiaoping who took over power after Mao in 1978 also believed that the advance in industrial development was the only solution to stand on equal grounds with the other developing countries, although the ways in which he strived to achieve his goal differed greatly from his predecessor. The reasons to why both leaders were so desperate in developing China was because of the delay China had in industrialization, compared to their surrounding countries. In the twentieth century while the other countries around China were urbanizing and industrializing, China remained the primary rural, agrarian nation. Starting from the years of 1978, China went into the reform era where it drastically changed the country turning it into one the most industrialized countries in the world. In this era millions of former agricultural workers quit their jobs, in order to work in the millions of small-scale factories that China made, throughout the countryside.[4]

China has largerly experienced three major phases since the People’s Republic of China was build in 1949. As Mao rose into power in 1949, the state started the confiscation of land from the landlords and re-distributed to the peasants equally in order to improve both equity and efficiency. This was the time when China was facing political isolation and economic ban. In this era the political leaders adopted from the soviets two development strategies. One was the prioritization of heavy industrial development, in order to catch up with the developed western countries. The second was to create a grain self-sufficiency policy to reduce the countries reliance on buying from international markets.[5]

The first phase was between 1958-1961 was the Great Leap Industrilization period in which China excessively exerted money into industrial production, by using the money that before went to agricultural means. Mao Zedong insisted for every citizen to stop growing crops, and instead to build small stell furnaces for melting steel. The goal of Mao was to outpace Britain’s steel production by 15 years, and to show the world the Chinese “inherent superiority” of the Marxist development paradigm and the strong “spirit” of the Chinese.[6] The plan was a complete failure, as the steel that were produced in the rural areas were of such low quality that, it could not be used for military or industrial purposes. As Mao had told the people to stop making the crops, there was a estimated death of 30 million people due to the lack of food. Although much of the plan was a failure, there was a small reward in the fact that “five small industries” in the rural area were created, which in the following future produced the key inputs for agriculture involving steel and iron, chemical fertilizers, farm machinery, cement plants, and electric power. [7]

In the 1960’s the level of urbanization in China decreased as the household registration system adpoted by the Chinese government in 1958, restricted the amount of people who were able to come into the cities from rural places. This decreased the population in cities from 46 million in 1959 to 41 million in 1963. In the cultural revolution (1966-1976) 1.7 million high school graduates were sent to rural areas, in order to further reduce the population within the cities. Many urban factories, and people were moved to the rural areas such as, doctors, engineers, and teachers.[8] This rural industrilization was what led to the urbanization of China. A mayor at the city of Sunan described the development of China of the 3 decades from 1970-1990 as “In the 1970’s we emphasized ‘Farmland development’ and in the 1980’s we placed our priority on ‘factory development’. Now in the 1990’s we have made great advances in ‘city development’”[9]

The Panzhihua region played a major part in the industrilization of China, as it was the main site for the excavation of iron, steel, coal gypsum, and other valuable materials. In the year of 1965 on March 4, Mao Zedong read a Ministry of Mining and Industry report recommending that the construction of the iron and steel mill was a necessary procedure. In later reports it was found that Panzhihua also possessed 93% of China’s total titanium reserves as well as vanadium, which were essential materials in the production of military weapons. As Panzhihua was a major place for work, large numbers of settlers came to the site in search for jobs, as in only the first year there were 41,000 migrants. [10]

The second phase was the cultural revolution (1966-1976) in which much of the poluation was chased out of urban cities to rural areas in order to undergo “peasants education’ in which Mao thought it was important because it would prevent the young generation from acccepting capitalist influences and to create new revolutionary leaders.[11] In other words the goal of this revolution was to “renew the nations commitment to socialist ideals through the purging of intellectuals and other ‘bad elements’”.[12] As in this period much of the population was sent to the rural areas, the urban population which had been increasing started to decrease. In this era was the movement of ‘shangshan xiaxiang’ (up to the mountains and down to the villages) occurred. The movement was a protest against the urban youth unemployment problem which was created by the Chairman Mao. This created an impression to the outsiders that this era was a period of predominantly urban outflows.[13] The image below is an example of one of the advertisement posters Mao Zedong created in order to keep the young generation under control. The letters read “Criticize the old world and build a new world with Mao Zedong Thought as a weapon, 1966”. A Life magazine written in 1969 mentions the urban overflow of the cultural revolution period. [14]

e15-699

Figure 1

The third leap was from the years of 1978 until the present where China went into it’s reform era. This era encouraged urbanization and a socialist market economy. After the death of Mao in 1976, his successor Deng Xiaoping came into power, in which China’s goal was to become a “socialism with Chinese characteristics” ruled country. This in other words meant to retreat from socialist ideals and market-driven capitalist development which would eventually get out of the hands of the government. [15]

Three decades after the economic reform of China starting in 1978, it has become one of the largest economical markets in the world. During the periods of 1978-2007 the gross domestic product growth rate was 9.8% annually in contrast to the ages between 1952-1978 when the the precentages were 3.7% lower. In 1992 the Chinese economy had become so large that it overtook Russia’s economy, followed by Canada’s in 1993, Itatly in 2000, the United Kingdom in 2006 making it the fourth largest economy in the world.[16]

Starting from the early 1970’s in how China finally started to realize and face their problems towards their environment. Although this thought was the thought of only at the top leadership level, but still was not a popular topic at the table. Many of the people were from the Deng Xiaoping leadership era, which encouraged most of the leaders controlling China to think that environmental protection and conservation had lower priorities than the political stabilities and economic growth the last two decades. It is a interesting fact that more than the people living in the rural areas, the people living in the urban areas are more aware of the environment. As there have been many “green groups” appearing, in contrast to the leaders of the rural areas who believe that stress the predominance of economic growth.[17] Although much of the serious environmental problems started to happen in the reform era (late 1970’s), there were some environmental issues that were discussed in the Maoist era also. In the years of 1950-1960 there were massive forest destructions that were carried out in order to support the Great Leap Industrilization. [18]

For the growth of industrilization energy must be used. China is one the world’s most countries that use coal for their energy, and therefore is one of the most carbon-intensive countries.[19] In 2011 China was the number one CO2 emitting country, occupying 28.0% of the worlds CO2 emission, easily overtaking the second place United States CO2 emission by 11.5%.[20] The emission growth rate of CO2 in China was 5.5% in 1971-1990, as then it increased drastically to 10.6% between 2000-2005. The amount of CO2 emission doubled in just a range of 5 years, as compared to when it took 20 years for it to rise to 5.5% between the years of 1971-90. In comparison, the emission growth rate of CO2 for the world from 1971-1990 was 2.1%, and 2.9% from 2000-2005.[21]

As the world suffers the from consequences of the amount of CO2 being emitted by China’s industrilization, the people living in China itself receive the most casualities. Shanghai like the other major air-polluted cities in China, has experienced a rapid transition from a rural to an urban civilization. In the polluted air created by the burning of industrial materials from the factories in China, include sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide which is a gas that causes respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. From the study of a Shanghai Project Research team in who have taken the data of Mortality rates and the concentration of air pollution in Shanghai from the years of 1950-2000, it has been concluded that as the concentration of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide increased in the air over the years, the rate of the mortality rate increased along with it.

shanghaismogv2

Figure 2

One of the most polluted areas in China, in consequence to the industrilization of China is the Yunnan Province. A lake which resides in Kunming called the Dian Chi Lake “There are fewer fish and they keep getting smaller.”[22] The lake in 1960 had crystal clear waters and over 57 types of fish and shrimp, as opposed to now which half of the species have died, and only six of the species are good enough to catch and sell as fish. The water now includes poisonous sediments of cadmium, arsenic, and lead that are three feet thick lying on the bottom of the Lake. Although a rural area the Yunnan province houses over 42 million people, with 5000 industrial plants pouring their effluent into the lake. Despite the governments effort to clean the lake using two billion dollars, the lake is still too toxic to drink. Due to the poverty of the factories in the Province many of the factories still use machinery from the 1950’s to produce harmful chemical fertilizers, and process tin and phosphorus.[23]

File photo of a cleaner paddling on a polluted river while collecting garbage in Nanjing

Figure 3

In 1998 there was a conference held at London at the School of Oriental and African Studies, discussing about China’s environment. The conference was later then combined in a book which pinpointed the environmental problems that China, will face in the first decade of the 21st century. In the 1950’s the soviet union was China’s biggest partner, and helped China create a Industrial economy. Factories produced massive amounts of iron, coal, and other heavy industry commodities, in equal with the Soviet Union. Much of these materials were made to support the military expansion of China’s army, and by the 1970’s it had become one of the greatest in the world. As China is now in the Reform era where it’s industrilization and urbanization keeps increasing, the environment of China will also along with it keep getting worse. Although as China has now started to realized the importance of the environment and have started it’s action in order to restore the environment, because the people of China have begun to understand that the environment is as equally as important in order to develop The Peoples Republic of China. [24]

[1] Garnaut Rose, “China’s rapid emissions growth and global climate change” in China’s Dilemma: Economic Growth the Environment and Climate Change, ed. Song Ligang, Thye Woo Wing (United States, ANU E Press, Asia Pacific Press, 2008) 170

[2] Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China (New York, Columbia University press, 2010) 20

[3] Engels, Friedrich, “Anti-Duhring” Moscow, Foreign language learning Publishing House, 1954

[4] Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China 22

[5] Wing Chan, Kam Cities with Invisible Walls (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994) 13

[6] Haugen David, China (Farmington Hills, Green Haven Press, 2006) 87

[7] Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China 37

[8] Li Cheng, Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform (Maryland, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, inc, 1997) 151

[9] Li Cheng, Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform 153

[10] Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China 24

[11] Song Shunfeng, Honglin Zhang, “Urbanization and City-Size Distribution in China” in The Great Urbanization of China, ed. LU Ding (Singapore, World Scientific Publishing, 2012) 15

[12] Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China 23

[13] Wing Chan, Kam Cities with Invisible Walls (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994) 40

[14] Kern Edward “Nobody Can Shoot his Way into the system ” Life Magazine Oct 17, 1969, 76

[15] Zhang Xiaobo, “How do Industrilization and Urbanization Affect land Use?” in Urban Transformation in China, ed. Chen Aimin (Burlington, USA, Ashgate Publishing Company 2004) 179

[16] Wang Xiaolu, “Rethinking thirty years of reform in China” in China’s Dilemma: Economic Growth the Environment and Climate Change, ed. Song Ligang, Thye Woo Wing (United States, ANU E Press, Asia Pacific Press, 2008) 153

[17] Richard Louis Edmonds, Managing the Chinese Environment (New York, Oxford University Press, 1998) 2

[18] Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China 86

[19] Garnaut Rose, “China’s rapid emissions growth and global climate change” 171

[20] Friedrich Johannes, Damassa Thomas “The History of Carbon Dioxide Emissions” Last modified May 21, 2014. http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/history-carbon-dioxide-emissions. World Resources institute. Accessed April 17, 2015.

[21] Garnaut Rose, “China’s rapid emissions growth and global climate change” 172

[22] Jasper Becker, Dragon Rising: An Inside look at China Today 197

[23] Jasper Becker, Dragon Rising: An Inside look at China Today 197-198

[24] Jasper Becker, Dragon Rising: An Inside look at China Today (Washington, D.C., National Geographic Society, 2006) 69-71

Bibliography:

Primary:

DeWiTT C. Poole “Balance of Power” Life Magazine Sep 22, 1947 77

Kern Edward “Nobody Can Shoot his Way into the system ” Life Magazine Oct 17, 1969, 76

Secondary:

Friedrich Johannes, Damassa Thomas “The History of Carbon Dioxide Emissions” Last modified May 21, 2014. http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/history-carbon-dioxide-emissions. World Resources institute. Accessed April 17, 2015.

Garnaut Rose, “China’s rapid emissions growth and global climate change”

Garnaut Rose, “China’s rapid emissions growth and global climate change” in China’s Dilemma: Economic Growth the Environment and Climate Change, ed. Song Ligang, Thye Woo Wing (United States, ANU E Press, Asia Pacific Press, 2008)

Jasper Becker, Dragon Rising: An Inside look at China Today (Washigton D.C., National Geographic Society, 2006)

Li Cheng, Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform (Maryland, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, inc, 1997)

Richard Louis Edmonds, Managing the Chinese Environment (New York, Oxford University Press, 1998)

Song Shunfeng, Honglin Zhang, “Urbanization and City-Size Distribution in China” in The Great Urbanization of China, ed. LU Ding (Singapore, World Scientific Publishing, 2012)

Tilt Bryan, The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China (New York, Columbia University press, 2010)

Wang Xiaolu, “Rethinking thirty years of reform in China” in China’s Dilemma: Economic Growth the Environment and Climate Change, ed. Song Ligang, Thye Woo Wing (United States, ANU E Press, Asia Pacific Press, 2008)

Wing Chan, Kam Cities with Invisible Walls (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994)

Zhang Xiaobo, “How do Industrilization and Urbanization Affect land Use?” in Urban Transformation in China, ed. Chen Aimin (Burlington, USA, Ashgate Publishing Company 2004)

Images

Figure 1: 1966 Propaganda Poster Group Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, http://chineseposters.net/posters/e15-699.php

Figure 3: 2013 Shanghai smog: Air pollution covers city http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/shanghai-smog-air-pollution-covers-city-8926748.html

Figure 3: 2009 A cleaner paddles on a polluted river while collecting garbage in Nanjing, Jiangsu province in this May 31, 2009 file photo. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/20/us-china-pollution-water-idUSBRE91J19N20130220