Being the world’s factory and having a population of 1 billion people rushing to own cars and consume has led to rising living standards for Chinese citizens. Rising living standards are now being put at risk by those exact increased living standards as pollution overwhelms big cities in China and starts adversely affecting people’s health.
The U.S. Embassy pollution monitor in Beijing – widely considered the most reliable measure of the cities pollution – was “beyond index” a week ago (picture of Twitter feed below). That’s right, the 522 micrograms of particulate pollutants (PM) per cubic meter of air that were registered were literally off the chart. The World Health Organization‘s (WHO) air quality guidelines for PM is 20 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) as an annual average. Granted, the 522 in Beijing was during one hour in one day but it is still unsettling. Other WHO data shows that average PM in some cities has reached up to 300 µg/m3.
China is a superpower and still on a path of booming economic growth. Whether environmental and political conditions remain tolerable to citizens is the unknown factor. The government is trying its mightiest to balance everything that may derail the juggernaut and throw out its established leadership.