They are trying to do their best to resist pollution in China, a problem that has become a genuine emergency after over 300 cities of the Democratic Republic recorded the highest PM 2.5 (particulate matter) values. It is a toxin in the air, which ends up right into our lungs. Citizens, therefore, have found different solutions, some of which are very ingenious: they buy expensive jars of “pure Canadian air”, bottled on mountaintops and shipped all around the world, spend fortunes on environmental purifiers, wear masks to protect their respiratory tract, download apps that indicate the daily emission levels, trying to avoid breathing toxic air every possible way, to the point of barricading themselves at home if the government launches the “orange” alert due to particulate levels.
Living under a huge cloud of smog certainly is not simple, but pollution in China is not worrying only because of the damage it causes to health. At stake there is not only the citizens’ health, but also the country’s economy. The Chinese Democratic Republic is, in fact, the world’s second economic power and it has reached this milestone thanks to industries that pollute rivers and the air its citizens breathe. The government, however, is not worried only about the environmental issue, but also by the fact that for the first time in the last 25 years, Beijing faces a potentially destructive economic crisis. A slap in the face of the decade-long growth and development, which have characterized the country and have led it to compete with powerful nations such as the United States or Europe.
China is world’s largest producer of coal, which constitutes the main problem. It produced 3.7 million tons of coal last year and only half it was actually used. The industry of the country, therefore, is in a dangerous situation of overproduction: from here, the idea of the government to shut down 1,000 mines in an attempt to fight both surplus production and pollution, eliminating 500 million tons of coal within the next five years. The problem, however, is that those mines provide work for about 2 million people, who will find themselves jobless overnight. Is this the price Chinese people have to pay to save their economy and health?
“Economy is facing a downward trend – according to Yin Weimin, Minister of Human Resources and Social Security -. Many companies are struggling to move on and there is risk to end up in a situation where there will not be enough work for everyone.” The exponent of the Asian government has also specified that the growing number of graduates may further damage the labor market. According to government sources, these 2 million workers will be hired in the third sector through a number of investments that China is putting in place to face this emergency.
As to pollution, it seems that closing the mines – along with more sensitive environmental policies – and a consequent reduction of the quantities of produced and consumed coal are truly helping China to get back to more sustainable emission levels. This is good news, considering that the discontent of the citizens because of the environment is growing more and more, making the Beijing government declare war on smog and reduce the proportion of energy coming from fossil fuels.
The challenge now is to prevent a huge employment crisis and allow China to breathe acceptable air. Beijing, however, seems not to understand the scope of its decision, which worries economists all around the world. “It will be a very difficult task – Weimin said during a press conference -, yet we are optimistic.”