A mixed bag of environmental news – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for August 18, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

There were many notable headlines in news about China’s energy needs and environmental triumphs and troubles this week. Here is a rundown:

A cloud forms over — and under — Beijing

  • The region surrounding Beijing saw extraordinary increases in air pollution in the first half of 2017 — over 10 percent increases in particulate matter gave the lie to Beijing’s promises for “extraordinary” efforts to reel in pollution. It was dispiriting news not just for residents, but also for authorities as they worked to “meet politically crucial 2017 pollution targets,” Reuters says.
  • A Chinese non-governmental think tank found that even the underground subway in Beijing provided no respite from particulate matter in the air: In fact, sampled rates over the winter were as much as 50 percent higher than above ground, SCMP reports.

Bad behavior by companies and officials across the country was evident

  • As SupChina summarized on August 15, a battery-making town in central Henan Province continues to struggle with the toxic legacy of cadmium poisoning, and workers in pain are unlikely to find legal relief, as the battery companies are state owned.
  • Other victims of pollution may have more luck: Caixin reports that 11 farmers in Shandong Province are suing their local government for the contamination of irrigation water, and that the case of a fish farmer in Hebei Province suing two steel companies and local officials for negligence has become a “watershed moment in the country’s environmental litigation.”
  • There was punishment doled out for environmental damage in at least two cases: Sixth Tone reports that Jiangsu Province shut down 14 electric tricycle manufacturers for “discharging acid waste into the surrounding environment” and that a high-ranking official in Henan Province was dismissed for lax environmental oversight.

More natural gas and nuclear power

  • Official goals for lower air pollution have led to a spike in demand for natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal. Caixin reports that consumption is expected to increase 8.1 percent annually through 2030 — quadruple the global average, and so fast that Bloomberg predicts possible shortages come wintertime.
  • The “world’s most advanced nuclear reactor” is about to become operational in Sanmen county of eastern Zhejiang Province. Read about it here on SCMP, and more about nuclear technology in China here on SupChina.