Due to China being a developing nation with a massive amount of available factor inputs, especially labour, it has a great absolute advantage over other nations which through careful planning and growth has enabled the nation to develop a comparative advantage in manufacturing, thus resulting in China becoming the workshop of the world.
This scale of manufacturing has allowed China to rapidly grow and urbanise, however, it has done so at the expense of the nations air quality.
A recent report from the BBC shows that China’s rapid economic growth has led to the nation is responsible for 27% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, these enormous quantities of carbon emission have consequently caused the Chinese people to suffer.
Beijing suffers one of the worst air qualities in the world where Beijing's peak average daily AQI in 2020 reached 262, which the EPA considers very unhealthy, thus resulting in severe public health issues for the nation.
These public health issues pave a massive problem for the Chinese population currently and in future as China’s population is ageing faster than almost all other countries in modern history, with an estimate of 39% of the Chinese population being in retirement by 2050.
This may lead to severe ‘japanification,’ however, the most pressing matter is the effects of poor air quality on the public health of an elderly population.
Poor air quality such as that in Beijing will lead to respiratory issues within the Chinese population, especially the elderly.
This will have a negative effect on Chinese health services as the demand for such services will likely exceed their capacity, thus increasing waiting times for individuals and resulting in worsening public health as individuals are not being treated.
Because workers are now suffering from respiratory issues which make them ill, they are unfit for work, consequently, workers either leave the labour force as they no longer work or are looking for work, or workers become less productive as they cannot do their job efficiently due to their illnesses.
This will lead to a reduction in the relative productivity of workers and a reduction in the size of the labour force, consequently, the productive capacity of the Chinese economy will decrease significantly.
This will throw a sizable wrench into the CCP’s plans of future economic growth as a decrease in the productive capacity will inhibit Chia’s ability to construct the Belt and Road initiative which has already seen delays.
So, it is key for China to improve its air quality soon, not just for the benefits of its people but for the benefit of the environment.
However, although the CCP has made it their agenda to reduce carbon emissions in future, it does not seem like China’s manufacturing has been slowing down pre-covid as China’s Quarter on Quarter economic growth figures has been relatively stable before the pandemic.
So how does China plan on reducing emissions from its manufacturing sector?
Well, it may not be down to China to make the first jump, instead, it may be more logical for developed nations to begin pioneering green technology.
This is because China is going through the same stage of development as the UK and America did years ago, is it fair for these nations to expect developing nations to not do the same as we did?
Additionally, with America being the second-highest polluter with 11%, we cannot place all the blame on China.
Developed nations have much less of an incentive to achieve massive levels of growth, instead, it may be better for America, the UK and the Eurozone to adopt a ‘doughnut’ style of economics that prioritises a stable and sustainable economy.
This economic philosophy creates demand for renewable energy generation, consequently, nations like the UK have seen firms like Siemens set up and construct wind turbines.
Firms like Siemens create an extremely specialised industry in the construction of wind turbines, an industry that has potential for further innovation in green energy.
So, with global renewable energy capacity rising by 45% in the last year, it is clear that developed nations around the world, including China in some capacity, are pushing innovation in this said sector.
This will result in external economies of scale as cheaper, more efficient renewable energy generation will make it much more attractive for developing nations to adopt.
Hence, it is logical to assume that it should be the role of developed nations to lead the innovation of renewable energy so that when the time comes, nations such as China and India can adopt these methods due to their superior efficiency and benefits to public health.
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Written by Hubert Kucharski