27 Mar 2014

The tragedy of the industrialization of China

S writes:*

Ever since the beginning of 2013, I have been hearing in news about severe air pollution in many major cities of China. The situation has worsened over the past few years. Some scientists say that it will take China more than ten years to clean the polluted air. My grandfather has once said to me: “I am excited to see those pavilions with highly advanced technologies in the great Expo, but I also miss the fresh air and clean streets there used to be”. “There ain't no such thing as a free lunch", says Edwin G. Dolan. Everything in this world has a cost. While China is enjoying all the benefits under a booming economy, the country must also consider the negative impacts of industrialization on its environment. Some of the most polluted cities in China are revolved around Hebei province. The province is known as the center of the country’s steel and cement production. These industries account for the main cause of the heavy smog in the capital city of China, Beijing. The situation is paradoxical, if the government forces to shut down the factories, millions of people will lose jobs and suffer from a bad economy. However, if the government does not take any actions, people will also suffer from deterioration in health caused by the toxic smog. In a critical time like this, I suggest the government to shut down factories that frequently ignore pollution limits, reduce exports of steel and subsidize in other industries. In the meantime, the government needs to protect workers from sudden unemployment, it is necessary to invent instruments similar to the Employment Insurance in Canada. In the long run, it also needs to invest in eco-friendly production technologies and develop stronger institutions for environmental regulation.

Bottom Line: Severe air pollution in China harm present and future generations. The government needs to take the lead in environmental management before everything is too late!

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.