China: Air Pollution and the Global Economy

China has the largest population and 2nd largest land mass in the world, making it a crucial component to the global economy. This blog will closely examine China in the media in regards to air pollution, as it relates to the theme of environmental degradation.

China’s portrayal in English-language contemporary media is dependent on the specific issues of air pollution, which is seen as harmful and degrading to the environment. China is often portrayed with singular images and concepts instead of interconnected ideas, which condenses China to a one dimensional context. The portrayal of China by the media in the past three centuries has varied due to historical and political context ranging from colonialism, the cold war and rogue states. The historical and political past of China continues to be at the forefront of its imagery in a Western perspective.

The incidence of air pollution is an environmental concern currently facing China, particularly in the North-Eastern area. For approximately two decades, unrestricted economic expansion, increasing car ownership and devastating dependence on coal has resulted in major air pollution in urban areas such as Beijing.

Within the past years there has been a reported air quality reading beyond index in Beijing. In 2014, a pollutant PM2.5 level of 505 micrograms per cubic meter was recorded. PM2.5 is a pollutant that is severely toxic and known to cause health effects such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and decreased life expectancy. Environmental effects of PM2.5 include depleting soil nutrients, damaging forests and farm crops, increasing the acidity of water bodies and contributing to acid rain effects. The World Health Organization deemed this 2014 reading more than 20-times higher than the recommended 24-hour level.Prior to the beyond index reading, the Shanghai Social Science Academy published a report declaring that Beijing air quality is barely appropriate for human and environmental life. With a continual degradation in air quality, air pollution emerges as a key risk factor in China. 

The dangerous increase in air pollution in Beijing in the past several years is a key concern leading to recognition worldwide. In recent contemporary media coverage, China is depicted as a driver of global economic growth due to its intensifying industrial and economic development. The expansion of industrial and economic development has led China to a fate of noxious air pollution.

This portrays the pursuit of growth at the cost of environmental health and well-being. Contemporary media coverage acknowledges economic growth in China and solely blames it for air pollution, but neglects to reference causes such as the pressure from major markets in the Western World.

By Earth Restoration Service Blog Writer Lela Pacitti
Images from Wikimedia