Environmental Issues in China: Three Case Studies, Case Study Example

CASE #1: The most pressing environmental problems are related to the pollution that occurs from industrialization. For example, the leading cause of premature death is cancer which has been traced to severe air pollution; China’s rivers, streams, and sources for drinking water have been contaminated from a “staggering expansion of heavy industry and urbanization” (Kahn, 1-2) derived from burning coal; and China’s greenhouse gas emissions have contaminated the air, the water, and the land.

Since China is now one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases, especially CO2 which is derived from burning coal, the domestic impact is that China’s air and water quality will suffer, thus leading to a myriad of health problems; internationally, China’s growing emission of greenhouse gases will spill over and negatively affect the air and water quality of nations in geographical proximity to China.

Domestically, China’s pollution problems will adversely affect every aspect of the lives its people via severe contamination of the air, drinking water, and the soil, particularly areas that are used for agriculture. As to the response of the Chinese government, Kahn points out that “party leaders intend to restrain runaway energy use and emissions” and mandate that China “use 20% less energy to achieve the same level of economic activity” as compared with 2005. This also includes lowering emissions related to mercury, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants (13).

The degradation of the natural environment is something that cannot be avoided when a nation like China utilizes massive industrialization like coal-burning power plants which contributes significantly to run-off into river and streams. Thus, economic growth in a rising nation like China is indelibly linked to industrial expansion.

CASE #2: Economies of scale refers to the amount of goods being produced in relation to an increase in the efficiency of production which decreases the cost of products. As to solar panel manufacturing and production, China’s “vast market and economies of scale are bringing down the cost” of solar panels (Oster, 1) which will lead to more acceptance by the Chinese as an alternative to creating energy via the burning of coal and other fossil fuels.

As to the risks and benefits of China’s current movement toward the global leader in green manufacturing which includes solar panels, renewable batteries, and other green technologies, China “could end up becoming simply a low-cost manufacturing base” and not a primary global source for technological innovation; also, its current efforts to reduce costs could potentially “stifle innovation overseas” (Oster, 2). One of the greatest benefits is that green manufacturing will help to lower China’s “carbon footprint” in relation to pollutants generated by coal-burning power plants.

There are two advantages related to China’s development of green technologies–1), an immense pool of cheap labor which helps to lower production costs and wages; and 2), the availability of capital that is required to begin a project, such as converting a coal-burning power plant into a more efficient and less polluting entity via the use of renewable energy sources.

In relation to carbon capture technology which basically “captures” the gas emitted from burning coal for reuse as a cleaner energy source, if this type of technology becomes reliable and efficient enough, it could help to cut down on global warming; however, carbon capture technology is not the only solution to global warming; the main solution is the complete elimination of coal-burning power plants.

CASE #3: The vulnerability of Bohai Bay, “one of the fastest growing industrial regions in China following the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas” (“Oil Spills Trigger Environmental Concerns,” 2011) is directly related to its geographical size (2.11 million square kilometers) and the number of people (290 million) that live and work in and around the bay. As to placing blame on the growing problems concerning pollution in the bay, there are “far too many heavy industrial projects along the Bohai Bay” that spew pollutants into the bay (“Oil Spills Trigger Environmental Concerns,” 1).

In contrast to what the State Council wishes to do via “rationalizing waste water outlets and raising the standards of water quality” in order to lower water pollution in the bay (“Oil Spills Trigger Environmental Concerns,” 1). As a top-ranking Chinese government official, I would institute a vast national program to force pollution-generating power plants to convert to some other type of energy source and mandate new laws to force people to use less fresh water which in effect would lower the levels of pollutants in the bay. Also, I would force oil giants like ConocoPhillips to clean up their act and be more receptive to new energy sources and to take full responsibility for oil spills in the bay.

According to the article, the top priorities of the Chinese State Council related to pollution in Bohai Bay are 1), to greatly reduce the number of heavy industrial projects around the bay; 2), to greatly limit “the construction of new petrochemical projects along the bay” and ban “reclamation projects that could harm the local ecological balance;” 3), to inject greater amounts of freshwater into the bay; 4), restore the wetlands along the bay’s beaches; and 4), establish “a warning system for environmental crisis and emergencies” (“Oil Spills Trigger Environmental Concerns,” 1).


Kahn, Joseph, & Jim Yardley. “As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes. “New York Times, August 26, 2007.

“Oil Spills Trigger Environmental Concerns.” October 8, 2011.

Oster, Shai. “China’s Green Technology.” Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2009.