Is China’s Growth Sustainable?

“For example, it is estimated that 40 percent of China’s water supply is now so polluted that it is unusable for any purpose, a circumstance that substantially increases the cost of industrial production in many sectors.”1

This statistic really floored me. I mean, I know that China isn’t exactly a bastion of environmentalism, but for 40 percent of the country’s water supply to be completely destroyed is crazy, especially for a country with a population as large as China’s demanding resources. And it’s so ironic. China isn’t regulating its industry very closely in the name of economic development, but that same lack of regulation is costing the state as much as 10% of GDP annually.2 In some ways its hard to fault China because the US and Europe managed to do all sorts of damage to our own natural resources while industrializing, too. Yet China saw what happened to the environment here and elsewhere and still went ahead with little to no regulation. How bad does it have to get before China realizes that responsible protection of limited resources is actually beneficial to economic growth in the long run? And for as long as China continues to pollute, developed countries have less incentive to curb their own emissions, making everyone and everyone’s economies worse off.

  1. Ho-Fung Hung, “A Caveat: Is the Rise of China Sustainable?” China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism, Ho-Fung Hung,ed. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 197
  2. Ibid.

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One Response to “Is China’s Growth Sustainable?”

  1. pkramer says:

    I agree. When I read this I was pretty shocked. Between things such as this and its over-populated area, it will be interesting down the line to see how the country reacts as a whole. I think China cares more about looking good as a nation than taking care of its own citizens. I wonder if any reforms at all have actually been attempted to clean up the environment, because 40% is high for water pollution, but it sure can get a lot worse than that.