Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The East is Green? China Steps Up Against Pollution and Climate Change

The East is Green? China Steps Up Against Pollution and Climate Change


As the famous Communist “anthem” famously says, “the East is red, the sun is rising. . . . The Communist Party is like the sun, Wherever it shines, it is bright.” At the recent Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress, Mao Zedong’s 5th generation successor, Xi Jinping, suggested East needs to go green.

President Xi Jinping devoted a portion of his opening work report to further entrenching and confirming China’s already emerging commitments to safeguarding the environment and tackling climate change.
With the Congress’ theme of “Remain true to our original aspiration and keep our mission firmly in mind, hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, and work tirelessly to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation,” it is safe to say that tackling environmental issues is now a part of Xi’s vision for China, and in turn, a part of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

The inclusion of the environment in one of the most high profile speeches of Xi’s career may seem surprising as images of smog engulfing Chinese cities—and reports explaining the human and economic costs of pollution—are not hard to find on the internet. One recent study estimated that globally, pollution caused the death of at least nine million individuals and costs associated with care and death was $4.6 trillion in 2015. This study also found that “China’s environment was the second deadliest [to India], with more than 1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related illness.” Another study found that pollution takes over 3 years off a person’s life in northern China. The pollution and smog cause these health issues in residents north of the Huai River. These studies’ findings help to explain the environment’s elevated platform in China.

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