Dear Members and Readers,
On a business trip to Beijing, I recently came face-to-face with one of China’s greatest challenges: air pollution. Oxygen being one of the fundamental elements of life, the Chinese people is increasingly concerned about the high price it is paying for its fast economic growth.
Since the 2008/09 financial crisis, pressure on China to back the weakening global economy has increased and this pressure shows no sign of disappearing. China is also being pressured to revalue its currency, the Renminbi, so as to increase Chinese export prices relative to foreign competitors and thus making Chinese imports cheaper. In addition, the government is also feeling domestic pressure to push the contry’s consumption and maintain high growth rates.
As the people’s purchasing power increases, so are China’s environmental problems. Although China is only the 18th per capita emitter of CO2, the country counts 16 of the world’s most polluted cities, its lakes and rivers are disappearing, and, in absolute terms, it remains the world’s largest energy user and carbon-emitter. In other words, as Chinese consumers save the world’s economy, China’s environmental problems may get worse, much worse. Water, the ultimate consumer product, is also suffering the effects of high growth rates. In addition to consuming potable water by cup or bottle, the Chinese, like their counterparts worldwide, consume water indirectly as a critical ingredient in their new and more water-intensive diets based on meat. It takes approximately 1,000 tons of water to produce a single ton of grain and 7 tons of grain to produce a ton of beef. As a result of the Chinese switching from their pre-1978 bean-protein-based diets to Kung Pao chicken or McDonald’s hamburgers, the per capita consumption of water is increasing. Alongside the Chinese people, many industries also use massive amounts of water. It takes, for instance, 400,000 liters of water to manufacture a single car. And last year, for the first time, Chinese consumers surpassed their foreign counterparts by buying the most cars.
Let’s work all together to get the needed economical growth in balance with our environment of which there is only one and contribute, where ever we can, to a clean environment.
Chairman SwissCham China
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