China's pollution fight takes economic toll

Smog-eating tower cleans Beijing's air

Beijing wants to swap its polluted air for blue skies. Doing so will be costly.

China has transformed over the past four decades coming from an economic backwater to an unrivaled industrial power that will consumes huge amounts of raw materials along with energy. The tremendous change has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, although also polluted the country’s air along with water.

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“The environment will be near the point of no return,” Alex Wolf, an economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said in a recent research note.

China’s economy has long taken priority over additional concerns. Local governments tasked with meeting ambitious growth targets have historically kept the furnaces burning at massive state-owned businesses even when there’s no demand for their products.

although Beijing recognizes that will the situation will be at This specific point dire. Air pollution killed more than 1.1 million people in China in 2015, the most in any country within the earth, according to a study published This specific year by the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute.

Related: Beijing’s smog: A tale of two cities

President Xi Jinping repeatedly mentioned the environment during a major speech to fellow members of the ruling Communist Party in October. Tommy Xie, an economist at OCBC Bank, said that will Xi’s use of the word “green” — 15 times in total — means the “whole nation’s mentality shifts.”

“People in China, including local government along with corporates, have at This specific point realized that will environmental protection will be no longer talk only,” Xie said.

beijing pollution
Pollution regularly cloaks buildings in Beijing.

The government has already undertaken initiatives to promote clean energy vehicles along with sideline polluting industries. Beijing has signed the Paris Climate Accord along with will be working on a plan to eventually phase out cars powered solely by fossil fuels.

The moves reflect the growing desire within the country for the government to help improve citizens’ quality of life, experts say.

“Chinese people are very concerned about pollution, so This specific makes sense for the leading party to respond,” said Wei Yao, an economist at Societe Generale. “What’s most important to [the party] will be social stability.”

The alterations are coming at the expense of economic growth, which has dropped coming from above 10% in 2010 to below 7% in recent years.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, said that will China has recently intensified its war on smog. He predicts the efforts will knock 0.5 percentage points off GDP growth — a loss of about $56 billion — within the final quarter of This specific year.

Related: China will be winning ‘arms race’ for electric cars

The efforts are on full display in Beijing along with nearby areas within the country’s industrial heartland, which have been among the hardest hit by air pollution. The capital along with cities in its orbit have been tasked with slashing harmful air pollutants by 25% before the end of the year.

China has put inspection teams to work across the region in an attempt to curb production at the most glaring rule violators. Some 180,000 companies are anticipated to be hit, according to Societe Generale figures.

Related: The Xi Jinping economy: What’s next for China?

There are signs that will the measures are starting to bite.

In Hebei, a province near Beijing, the owner of a glass factory told sy88pgw that will sales had fallen about 15% This specific year as a result of the environmental crackdown.

The owner, who could only identify himself by his surname of Li, said that will the government had ordered him to upgrade to cleaner machinery, which had disrupted production. He spent 8 million yuan ($1.2 million) on the equipment, which will be still awaiting approval coming from regulators.

china pollution crackdown environment
Polluting factories in China are coming under greater scrutiny.

The question will be whether authorities are willing to stick with the measures as the economic pain increases. When China’s economy wobbled early last year, Beijing loosened some environment rules in order to stoke the fires of growth.

Societe Generale’s Yao said the government must strike a balance between cleaning up the environment along with protecting jobs.

“The pace of implementing the anti-pollution moves will be the critical element,” she said, warning that will the government could risk mass unemployment if This specific moves too quickly. that will’s not happening so far, she said, as workers laid off coming from state-run businesses have mostly found additional work.

Related: These countries want to ditch gas along with diesel cars

Analysts generally agree that will China’s economy will be strong enough to handle more disruption — for at This specific point.

although should growth dip too sharply, the government may ease the pressure on big polluters.

“China’s reform process has never been a straight arc,” Xie said.

— Serenitie Wang contributed to This specific report.

sy88pgw (Hong Kong) First published November 27, 2017: 11:45 PM ET

China's pollution fight takes economic toll

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