Tag Archives: pollution

Fantasy islands

Sze, Julie (2015). Fantasy islands : Chinese dreams and ecological fears in an age of climate crisis. Oakland : University of California press. 248 p. (“A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies”). ISBN : 978-0-5202-8448-7.

11623.110The rise of China and its status as a leading global factory are altering the way people live and consume. At the same time, the world appears wary of the real costs involved. Fantasy Islands probes Chinese, European, and American eco-desire and eco-technological dreams, and examines the solutions they offer to environmental degradation in this age of global economic change.

Uncovering the stories of sites in China, including the plan for a new eco-city called Dongtan on the island of Chongming, mega-suburbs, and the Shanghai World Expo, Julie Sze explores the flows, fears, and fantasies of Pacific Rim politics that shaped them. She charts how climate change discussions align with US fears of China’s ascendancy and the related demise of the American Century, and she considers the motives of financial and political capital for eco-city and ecological development supported by elite power structures in the UK and China. Fantasy Islands shows how ineffectual these efforts are while challenging us to see what a true eco-city would be.


1. Fear, Loathing, Eco-Desire: Chinese Pollution in a Transnational World
2. Changing Chongming
3. Dreaming Green: Engineering the Eco-City
4. It’s a Green World After All? Marketing Nature and Nation in Suburban Shanghai
5. Imagining Ecological Urbanism at the World Expo

More information


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Smog journey

Film by Jia Zhangke

(…) Released on Thursday, the film follows the lives of two Chinese families — one a mining family in rural Hebei Province, and the other a cosmopolitan family in hyper-urban Beijing. The film is intended to show that every Chinese citizen, regardless of socioeconomic status or geography, is affected by dirty air.

“I wanted to make a film that enlightens people, not frightens them,” Mr. Jia said in a news release. “The issue of smog is something that all the citizens of the country need to face, understand and solve in the upcoming few years.”

Source: Film Highlights Air Pollution’s Broad Reach By Amy Qin, January 22, 2015. Read more on Sinosphere

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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A coal free Beijing?

Beijing to ban high-polluting fuels by 2020

by Zheng Jinran, China Daily, August 6, 2014

Beijing will ban the consumption of high-polluting fuels in downtown areas by 2020, the municipal environmental protection authority said. The Economic and Technological Development Zone in Yizhuang, Daxing district will be the first area with zero consumption of high-polluting fuels by the end of this year, according to a new plan for the ban on such fuels in the capital.

Full text available online

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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The current dilemma and future path of China’s electric vehicles

Zhang, X.; Rao, R.; Xie, J.; Liang, Y. (2014). The current dilemma and future path of China’s electric vehicles. Sustainability, 6, 1567-1593. DOI:10.3390/su6031567 [Retrieved 24 March 2014]

China had set an ambitious development target of electric vehicles (EVs) to mitigate the environmental pollution. However, the actual situation of EVs far lagged behind the goals. This paper analyzes the elements impeding EVs’ development, which are identified into four contributors, including deficient EV subsidy policies, embarrassed EV market, local protectionism, and unmatched charging infrastructure. Based on the actual situation of China, this paper discusses corresponding policy suggestions and explores the alternative roadmap of EVs. In the initial development stage of EVs, it is important to select the appropriate charging mode for EVs according to different characteristics across users. Moreover, the development of hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) may open the EV market faster than battery electric vehicle (BEV). In addition, the low-speed EVs may be a good choice for the rural market and should be well developed. With the promotion of EVs, China central and local governments should make rational policies to promote EVs’ development, which is the crucial force to drive the uptake of EVs.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Pollution and China’s food security

Tiezzi, Shannon (2014, January 1). Pollution threatens China’s food security. The Diplomat. (Retrieved 10 January, 2014).

Reuters report this week noted that nearly 3.33 million hectares (eight million acres) of Chinese farmland are too polluted to grow crops. The article, which was re-posted by the state-run China Daily news site, quoted Wang Shiyuan, China’s vice minister of land and resources. Wang says that the government is determined to address the issue of polluted farmland, and will commit “tens of billions of yuan” each year to help return the land to a usable state.

Food security is a major concern for Chinese leaders, and worries over this issue already had the potential to severely slow down other planned reforms such as urbanization. The announcement on China’s pollution levels further complicates the balance of preserving farmland and speeding up urbanization. Wang Shiyuan noted that the amount of polluted land represents nearly 2 percent of the country’s arable land, which is not something the Chinese government can ignore.  China’s per capita arable land area is already less than half of the world average — the country simply can’t afford to lose any more land to pollution.

China’s government wants to ensure enough arable land is left reserved for farming, and the large swath of polluted fields cuts into that amount. Xinhua reports that China’s arable land survey counted about 135.4 million hectares (334.6 million acres) of farmland — but after removing from that count land reserved for “forest and pasture restoration” as well as land too polluted for crop-growing, the “actual available arable land was just slightly above the government’s red-line” of preserving 120 million hectares (296 million acres) of usable farm land. In other words, pollution is presenting a dangerous threat to one of the government’s highest priorities.

This presents a tough choice for Chinese leaders: let the land lie fallow and risk disrupting food supplies, or allow crops to be grown on tainted soil. Wang’s remarks show the government is leaning towards the former. Tainted crops have already caused scares among China’s citizens. A report by Guangzhou in May found that nearly half the rice in the cities’ restaurants had excessive levels of the heavy metal cadmium. The city’s residents were outraged when the report was published.  The rice in Guangzhou was linked to polluted plots in Hunan province, which produces 11 percent of China’s total rice each year. Caixin published an article arguing that cover-ups by both local and provincial governments allowed the problem to spread before it exploded into the public consciousness in late spring 2013.

Read the full story

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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China, Japan and ROK hold air pollution summit

In spite of regional tensions, China, South Korea and Japan held an environmental summit on pollution.

Wu Wencong (December 13, 2013), China, Japan and ROK air pollution summit, China Daily

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea will hold a summit to tackle air pollution and promote green industries in Langfang, Hebei province, from Dec 14 to 15.

Around 300 delegates, consisting of governmental officials, scholars and entrepreneurs, from the three nations will participate in the two-day conference to share their experiences and look into opportunities of cooperation.

The China Center for International Economic Exchanges, together with the Japan-China Governmental, Industrial and Academic Cooperation Organization and the Korea International Trade Association, hosted the summit.

Full text available on line : http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-12/13/content_17174010.htm (accessed 16 december 2013)

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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China and the environment. The Green Revolution

Source: ChinaFile http://www.chinafile.com/china-and-environment

Sixteen of the world’s twenty most polluted cities are in China. A serious water pollution incident occurs once every two-to-three days. China’s breakneck growth causes great concern about its global environmental impacts, as others look to China as a source for possible future solutions to climate change. But how are Chinese people really coming to grips with environmental problems? This book provides access to otherwise unknown stories of environmental activism and forms the first real-life account of China and its environmental tensions.

Zed Books http://zedbooks.co.uk/paperback/china-and-the-environment

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Chinese metropolises’ air quality management performance assessment report

The “Performance Assessment Report – Air Quality Management of Metropolises in China” was drawn up by Professor Song Guojun and Professor Ma Zhong. This report examines the status of air quality and its patterns of evolution (2005-2010) in 281 Chinese cities (above prefecture level).

Results show that, generally, cities seen to have good air quality accounted for 10.67% of the total; those with poor air quality accounted for 75.80%.  There were 13.52% of the 281 cities that had air of extremely poor quality. Yangjiang (阳江), Huangshan (黄山) and Maoming (茂名) are examples of cities with good air quality; these cities normally have a low level of economic development. In terms of GDP these three cities are ranked 136, 159 and 144 out of the 218 cities. Cities with poor air quality include Liaoyuan, Lanzhou, Wuhan, Urumqi, Beijing, Nanjing, Xi’an, etc.

The report also included ​​a questionnaire asking resident about their opinion of the air quality. The result shows that 46.02% of the respondents are dissatisfied with their current air quality, but there are also 71.26% of the respondents who think that air quality has improved significantly in comparison to previous years.

More details of this report can be found in the “China Environmental Economics Database”(http://www.3edata.com), where it can be consulted and downloaded.



Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Urban Environmental Pollution 2013 – Asian Edition

Urban Environmental Pollution 2013 Asian Edition : Creating Healthy, Liveable Cities

 People all over the world are migrating to cities in search of jobs and cultural advantages, especially in Asia. This has resulted in the formation of huge megapolitan areas and surrounding peri-urban environs. In China, a 40 million urban area is planned.

The effects of cities on people are not well-understood. Cities require huge amounts of energy, resulting in large quantities of waste products, causing unsustainable environments. Cities are sources of air, water and soil pollution. Light and noise pollution are now known to adversely affect urban people. The role of urban heat islands and air pollution, PM2.5 and ozone, on human health is beginning to emerge. Lack of green space may have psychological effects for urban dwellers.

We began to explore the nature of the urban environment and pollution on human health and well-being at UEP2010 in Boston in June of 2010. This very successful conference identified many areas of urban life that warranted further investigation. UEP2013 aims to continue the exploration of the urban environment and how we can begin to create a healthy and liveable environment in cities.

 Topics list

  • New information about urban environments and how they function
  • Pollution problems and possible solutions
  • Role of the built environment in alleviating heat islands
  • Human health problems and solutions
  • Role of vegetation in mitigating urban pollution and human health problems
  • Innovative methods for alleviation of urban stress problems


  • Beijing, China


  • 17-20 November 2013

Deadline for abstracts

  • 31 July 2013

Programme Committee

  • William Manning, University of Massachusetts, USA (Chair)
  • Elena Paoletti, National Research Council (IPP-CNR), Italy
  • Claudia Wiegand, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Local Organising Committee

  • Yong-Guan Zhu, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Tong Zhu, Peking University, Beijing, China (Local Chair)
  • Yonglong Lu, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Yong-Guan Zhu, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Regulating land and pollution at Lake Dianchi

Dianchi-Kunming, Hu Ying
Rooij, Benjamin van (2011) , “Regulating land and pollution at Lake Dianchi: compliance and enforcement in a Chinese and comparative perspective” In:  Burell, Mattias; Svensson, Marina, eds. Making law work: Chinese laws in context (2011).  Ithaca, N.Y.: East Asia Program, Cornell University,  viii, 414p. (Cornell East Asia series, no.154) , p. 367-403.

By studying law implementation in different areas and at different levels, contributors from various disciplines give a nuanced picture of law implementation in China, showing that it is rare to find examples of complete success or failure. Instead, making law work in actual practice, and in any society, is a matter of degree. The study is multidisciplinary in character and builds on insights from both sociology of law and political science.

See also the full text Benjamin van Rooj (2006), Regulating land and pollution in China. Lawmaking, compliance, and enforcement; therory and cases, Leiden UniversityPress, 2006. 451 p.

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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In China, breathing becomes a childhood risk

BEIJING — The boy’s chronic cough and stuffy nose began last year at the age of 3. His symptoms worsened this winter, when smog across northern China surged to record levels. Now he needs his sinuses cleared every night with saltwater piped through a machine’s tubes.

The boy’s mother, Zhang Zixuan, said she almost never lets him go outside, and when she does she usually makes him wear a face mask. The difference between Britain, where she once studied, and China is “heaven and hell,” she said.

Levels of deadly pollutants up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit in Beijing and other cities have struck fear into parents and led them to take steps that are radically altering the nature of urban life for their children.

Parents are confining sons and daughters to their homes, even if it means keeping them away from friends. Schools are canceling outdoor activities and field trips. Parents with means are choosing schools based on air-filtration systems, and some international schools have built gigantic, futuristic-looking domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing.

“I hope in the future we’ll move to a foreign country,” Ms. Zhang, a lawyer, said as her ailing son, Wu Xiaotian, played on a mat in their apartment, near a new air purifier. “Otherwise we’ll choke to death.”

She is not alone in looking to leave. Some middle- and upper-class Chinese parents and expatriates have already begun leaving China, a trend that executives say could result in a huge loss of talent and experience. Foreign parents are also turning down prestigious jobs or negotiating for hardship pay from their employers, citing the pollution.

There are no statistics for the flight, and many people are still eager to come work in Beijing, but talk of leaving is gaining urgency around the capital and on Chinese microblogs and parenting forums. Chinese are also discussing holidays to what they call the “clean-air destinations” of Tibet, Hainan and Fujian.

Read the full text article at The New York Time, Asia Pacific

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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New Year’s tradition spurs a debate over air pollution


  • “Among all the ancient traditions that Chinese people observe during the lunar New Year, setting off firecrackers is the most controversial. Originally used to “drive bad luck away,” firecrackers have been an intrinsic part of the Chinese New Year celebration for thousands of years. Yet, their contribution to air and noise pollution has always incurred debates about whether they should be banned. This year, the debate has been intensified by the severe air quality crisis many cities faced right before the festival.

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Towards the end of January, citizens in Beijing endured several waves of what many Western media outlets dubbed “airpocalypse.” On January 29, the air quality index released by the U.S. embassy in Beijing peaked at 526, beyond “hazardous” and literally off the charts. Responding to the environmental disaster, many Web users spontaneously advocated to stop setting off firecrackers during the upcoming festival. A comment tweeted by Shi Shusi(@石述思), the editor-in-chief of the Workers’ Daily, is representative. “Entering middle age, I suddenly realize that the majority of my family consists of seniors and children. So although I’ve loved firecrackers since childhood, I decided to quit using them for the sake of both tranquility for my family and clearer air. I request earnestly that everyone set off fewer firecrackers, and while doing it, try to keep your distance from seniors and children.”

As the anti-firecracker web users’ voices multiplied, accounts of official media joined the campaign. China Central Television’s Economics and Finance Channel (@央视财经) is one of them. “The air quality in Beijing has become poorer and poorer as we approach the New Year. If we still set off firecrackers, the air quality will not be not restorable. Here, our channel – Jacqueline Nivard

Tags: china, tradition, debate, pollution, atlantic

by: Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Too much pollution for global aspirations

Shanghai landmark, Goulard SébastienAir pollution in Beijing has been the subject of wide discussion recently because of the unprecedented low quality of the air. The authorities have asked the population to keep their outdoor activities to a minimum, but more consistent policies need to be implemented. This is not the first time Chinese cities have been blamed for their poor air quality, but this issue has become recurrent and poses a threat to the global ambitions of Chinese cities.

The causes of pollution are many: the continuing use of coal as a major source of energy, the increasing car traffic, the presence of factories near cities and insufficient pollution regulations and enforcement. 

The authorities should take this problem seriously. Pollution not only affects the health of urban inhabitants – which is already a major reason to find a solution – but it also limits the capacity for China’s large cities to become global. Chinese cities are now facing the challenge of becoming post-modern, and evolving from industrial centres to service-oriented hubs, following the modal of global cities.

Global cities are not, of course, immune to the problem of pollution. In 2006, rampant forest fires in Indonesia created high pollution levels in Singapore. Since then, the city-state has regularly suffered from smoky haze, especially during the monsoon season. This causes economic losses for Singapore in the form of medical treatments, lost workdays and a weakened tourism and airline sector1 However, unlike Singapore, which has no control over Indonesian forests, China can take the necessary decisions to reduce pollution.

Pollution could reduce the potential of the contribution of infrastructures in Chinese cities towards their transformation into global hubs. As a result of air pollution and poor visibility, several flights were cancelled last month at Beijing Capital airport. If such incidents occur regularly, large Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai will lose their infrastructural lead in China and Asia. Their transportation infrastructures will not be considered reliable, and international companies will prefer to move their activities to cleaner and less risky cities. Businesses need stability for their development and pollution impedes this development.

Global cities are also characterized by their attractiveness to visitors and workers. New York, London and Hong Kong are pulsing cities that tourists enjoy visiting. However, pollution can damage a city’s image. China is well aware of the fact that pollution puts off tourists; that is why restrictive policies were implemented during the Olympic Games, so that international visitors could enjoy the blue sky in Beijing. If China does not solve her pollution problem, Chinese cities will have little chance of becoming international tourism hotspots.

Another important issue related to air pollution is the matter of the workplace for the middles classes. Knowledge workers are not static. Cities have entered a new, postmodern era where the mobility of knowledge workers is very high. As a consequence, cities need to attract the brightest workers in order to become truly global. Safety, education, entertainment and environment are key elements for attracting and retaining company headquarters and high-income employees. How can Beijing expect to attract Chinese and international talent if the “welcome package” includes grey skies and the prospect of lung cancer?

Although stricter environmental regulations may reduce economic growth in the short term and increase discontent among the new consumer classes, green policies would help China’s leading cities to develop their services sector and thus increase their competitiveness as global cities.  

  1. HON Priscilla (2006). “Singapore. In GLOVER David & JESSUP Timothy (eds).  Indonesia’s fire and hae; the cost of catastrophe. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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China Internet users scream for clean air act

2013-1-29 (accessed 29 January 2013)

With northern China once again struggling to breathe under a blanket of carcinogenic haze, one of the China’s highest profile antipollution warriors has invited the country’s social media users to vote on whether China should enact a national clean air law.

The result is a landslide of such epic proportions, it puts even China’s rubber-stamp legislature to shame.

In less than 10 hours of voting, nearly 32,000 microbloggers have said they agree with real estate mogul Pan Shiyi’s call for China to implement a clean air law. Fewer than 250 said they were opposed, while just over 120 said they weren’t sure.

“I’m guessing those who voted ‘no’ are major pollution producers afraid a law would hurt their interests – or they’re creatures who don’t breathe,” wrote one Weibo user.

The poll, posted to Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging platform, is hardly scientific. Still, it’s tempting to compare the margin of approval to those of important votes before the National People’s Congress, which passed Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2012 budget plan with a much narrower 2,291-to-438 vote last March.

“Controlling air pollution requires the participation of every citizen. Most important is implementing laws,” wrote Mr. Pan, himself a legislative representative. “I will use my position as an NPC delegate to submit the results of this vote to the NPC and the government.”

The cloud of pollution presently afflicting northern China covers 1.3 million square kilometers – an area more than three times the size of California –the state-run Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday. Levels of fine particulate pollution, known as PM2.5, have been at “hazardous” levels in Beijing since early Sunday morning, according to pollution monitors at the U.S. embassy in eastern Beijing. Air quality index readings from the embassy briefly crept above 500 late Monday night – a level once described by the embassy’s @BeijingAir feed on Twitter as “crazy bad” but now labeled simply “beyond index.”

Read more on China Real Time Report

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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The Great Smog of China

After years of increasing public demand, the Chinese government is to release pollution data in 74 cities. Malcolm Moore at Telegraph reports:

[…T]he Chinese state media said on Sunday that 496 monitoring stations would release data in real time on six types of pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and on PM2.5, particles that are so small they can only be detected by an electron microscope, but which can cause respiratory and heart disease.

[…] The pollution data will be available on the internet and through smartphone apps, said the Ministry of Environmental Pollution. There will also be daily readings on television and radio bulletins.

[…] The release of the official data will leave local governments less room to manipulate their statistics and hide the country’s worsening pollution problem.

It will also hamper other local governments from exaggerating how bad their air is in order to win pollution treatment funding from Beijing.

Read more on China Digital Times

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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