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Surprising Science

China’s Major Cities Crack Down on Pollution

Bowing to public pressure, Guangzhou and other Chinese metropolises are taking steps to improve the environmental quality of life for their citizens, signaling a recognition that growth for growth's sake is bad policy.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

The municipal government in Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China and home to many auto manufacturers, introduced restrictions last week that will cut down the number of cars on its streets by approximately half. It is the latest measure taken in a growing national attempt to assess and address the toll China’s massive economic growth has had on the environment and the health of its citizens. Some of the efforts being made include the removal of polluting factories and the scrapping of cars built before emissions rules became more stringent.

What’s the Big Idea?

Pressure from citizens is behind many of the changes, which signals a significant cultural shift: “China is no longer just a developing economy that has pursued a particularly raw form of capitalism…It is becoming a modern, industrialized economy whose leaders increasingly listen to public opinion and seek to balance the environment, social welfare and many other issues against economic growth.” Some experts are concerned that China is already experiencing a growth slowdown and that adding restrictions don’t help. However, a Guangzhou official explains his city’s choice succinctly: “What do we need gross domestic product for if we don’t have health?”

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