Nov 15, 2018 in Analysis

Sustainable Development Essay


China is a country located on the continent of Asia with the world’s largest population and at the same time, the world’s fastest growing economy. Sustainable development refers to the ability of the current generation to satisfy all its wishes without compromising on the capability of the future generations to meet the needs of their time. With the world’s fastest growing economy, China has invested heavily in industrial development that sustains the large population in terms of employment and the production of products to cater for the population’s needs. Current essay seeks to evaluate whether China provides a solution to the problems of sustainable development or adds to these problems.

China and Sustainable Development

Several reasons prove that China contributes enormously to the problems of sustainable development. The current data on global carbon emission shows that China is at the top with a 29% carbon emission rate outshining both America and Europe, which had been on top of the table for a very long time (Robbins 2001). Sustainable development promotes the use of clean energy. Clean energy refers to energy sources that do not result in the production of carbon. Carbon remains the worst air pollutant so that many countries have put concerted efforts to combat it. 

Research indicates that carbon emissions into the air help trap heat for longer periods thus contributing enormously to the menace of global warming. The adoption of clean energy aims at eradicating completely the use of coal and fossil fuels as sources of energy. China contributes to the problems of sustainable development because over the previous 20 years, during which China has experienced rapid industrialisation, coal acted as the major source of energy (Walker & King 2008). The country has established coal power stations that generate power used in the industries. Coal power releases carbon emission into the air contrary to the principles of sustainable development that advocate for zero carbon emission (Harrison, 2000).

The future further remains unclear as the coal power dependent industries keep on growing to meet the huge market demands for Chinese products both within China and in Europe as well as other continents (Voigt 2009). To meet these huge demands these industries will have to increase in number, which means that the levels of carbon emissions will most definitely rise in future to add to already deteriorating situation. Available data shows that clothes production, solar panels and furniture production alone contribute 20% to the total 29% carbon emissions (Robbins 2001).


The fact that China exports cheap solar panels to America and Europe shows complete lack of commitment in the fight against sustainable development. It contradicts logic that one can sell clean energy solutions to other countries and disregard the very importance of the use of the same clean energy resources. Studies further show that there is limited usability of clean energy among the millions of Chinese citizens indicating the fact that there is limited awareness among the citizens as for the significance of adopting the use of clean energy (Schrijver & Weiss 2004). 

China also uses its low per capita discharges to advance the argument that it is simply no different from other developing countries though this argument has no basis. China is the world’s largest manufacturer of counterfeit products. This aspect further contradicts the principles of sustainable development (Voigt 2009). Counterfeit product has a relatively short lifespan, which greatly contributes to the increase in electronic waste that has kept an upward trend. China further sells these counterfeit electronic appliances to other developing countries with no clear instructions on their safe disposal. Some of the electronic appliances when disposed off carelessly react with elements in the environment to emit carbon (Todaro & Smith 2006). China shows little concern to the aspect of recycling its industrial and electronic waste as advised in the measures of environmental sustainability. Lack of recycling of these devices not only exploits the sources of its materials but also adds to the crisis of sustainable development.

The transport sector in China that relies mostly on gasoline contributes to the problems of sustainable development. Public service vehicles that use gasoline act as the major emitters of carbon elements in the air. In a study conducted recently, seven out of ten most air polluted cities are in China. These high rates of pollution are against a backdrop of technological development that has seen the country develop electric subways not only in the local area but also in other developing countries. This affirms the fact that the challenge of adapting sustainable development lies not in the technological advancement but rather in the attitude towards the initiative (Sayer & Campbell 2004). To effect the change on sustainable development, China should lower the cost of acquisition of clean energy to induce the population to adopt its use. The fact that the government of China has made coal and gasoline cheaper than other clean energy sources such as ethanol and solar provides unfavourable conditions for possible change and adoption of clean energy use. A policy on energy in China only helps to promote the use of non-renewable energy sources.

China has a very elaborate constitution that bestows sufficient authority to the government to protect the environment, the habitat and the wildlife. The country has further committed itself to international agreements and conventions that aim at encouraging sustainable development. A good example of an international commitment is the Kyoto and Montreal protocols that encourage the countries to adopt the use of renewable energy sources. The biggest problem lies in implementing these laws. The successive governments have failed to implement these laws fully thus creating loopholes for individuals to use the same laws. Such breaches of the laws only discourage the efforts towards sustainable development (Sayer & Campbell 2004). Despite the non-commitments of China to promote sustainable development as discussed above, the country has also taken measures that suggest otherwise. Early this year China released its 12th five-year strategy that outlines the country’s key economic and development goals. What makes this five-year strategy unique compared to the previous strategies is the emphasis that it has put on the climate change and sustainable development. The Chinese have shown more commitment towards introducing a data guided approach regarding the development (Walker & King 2008). 

The move by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental protection to forward a proposal of amendments to the Air Pollution Index to the revised Air Quality Index shows the degree of the government’s commitment to sustainable development. This demonstrates that as the leading country in carbon emissions, China has taken the frontline in adopting the sustainable development (Schrijver & Weiss 2004). Such constitutional changes will enable the country to change its rules regarding environmental protection and sustainable development. This is a boost to the efforts of encouraging sustainable development as China acts as the role model to many developing countries that are keen to follow the steps taken by China. Many developing countries borrow much from China as the country has proved that with proper industrialisation the country’s economy can compete favourably with the developed economies but at the same time pollution can remain relatively low in the pursuit of that economic growth (Yuen 2011). China has shown great commitment at the world stage to advancing sustainable development; for instance, at the United Nations Conference on sustainable energy, the country restated its commitment to promoting the use of green technology. Green technology plays a central role in curbing the use of fossil fuels that emit carbon into the air, which in turn causes global warming. China plays a leading role in guiding the world towards the use of ethanol-propelled locomotives (Harrison 2000). 

Chinese engineers have come up with ethanol-propelled engines, which have successfully worked in the pilot programmes. The technology only requires financial help from the World Bank to be adopted at a large scale. The country is also incorporating the use of non-fossil fuels in its energy sources with great emphasis on the limited carbon technologies. The Chinese government has also shown commitment to sustainable development through its move to use economic incentives to provide a solution to externalities problem arising from energy use. In a bid to reduce the use of coal as a source of energy, the Chinese government has introduced a levy on high sulphur coal. This will ultimately lower the demand for the use of coal energy with an automatic switch to clean energy use (Sayer & Campbell 2004).

Leading pollutants especially in the manufacturing and production industries will also have a price to pay in terms of their pollution. Industries relying on coal energy will have to pay more for the acquisition of coal. The Chinese government has shown plans to increase the cost of coal in a bid to prompt coal consuming companies to rethink and possibly adjust their energy sources to comply with the objectives of sustainable development (Harrison 2000). The provision of more incentives to the companies that will use energy efficient production techniques and equipment represents a solution rather than a problem of sustainable development. Companies will go for energy-efficient production methods in a bid to enjoy the government incentives and in the process, the country will be shifting from graduation towards sustainable development (Harrison, 2000).

The push for the use of nuclear energy has provided another solution so that the Chinese government has shown commitment towards its adoption. Nuclear energy is free of carbon emission though it also has its limitations (Sayer & Campbell 2004). The standards required by the country intending to adopt the use of nuclear energy remain so high that many countries fail to attain them. The Chinese government has invested substantial amount in the research on nuclear energy even though it struggles to meet the standards required for establishing a nuclear plant. Nuclear energy will provide the required energy that will substitute the commonly used gasoline. The success achieved in the use of nuclear energy in a pilot test in China has brought hope for amass shift from the traditional fossil fuels.

According to Harrison (2000), the Chinese government now considers the establishment of clean energy as a crucial national policy. The government has embarked on developing hydropower, wind power, solar energy, biomass and methane fuels as well as natural gas. The Chinese government is also developing natural gas facilities all over the country that are estimated to increase the annual power production by about 3,000 megawatts (Robbins 2001). With the help of the World Bank and America, the Chinese government plans to establish a multi-million dollar plan to curb pollution. To promote rural electrification, the government has concentrated wind resources to the Western and Northern parts of the country as well as to the coastal regions.

The Chinese government has also rolled out subsidies to the companies that manufacture cheap solar panels. The government has facilitated the provision of licenses for solar panel manufacturing companies to encourage more investors to set up solar manufacturing plants. The availability of markets for the same solar panels in both Europe and America has promoted the growth of the manufacturing industries (Walker & King 2008). The government has also reduced exportation levies imposed on the solar panels to make the business enterprising in a bid to encourage more investments in the business. China stands as the leading manufacturer of cheap solar panels in the world. This positive gesture demonstrates the country’s commitment to providing solutions to the problems of sustainable energy. This also shows that China has invested sufficiently in research aimed at establishing cheap solutions to energy production. Since most Sub-Saharan countries that also face the problems of adopting clean energy sources receive adequate sunshine throughout the year, the use of solar power comes in handy (Shah 2012). Many households in this region have opted to use the solar panels that have also assisted in cutting down their power costs. It is in this background that China stands out as a solution provider to the problems of sustainable development. The reduction of fossil fuels by the Chinese government affirms that the use of alternative clean energy sources is effective (Todaro & Smith 2006). 

The construction of 18.2 gigawatt power plant at the Three Gorges project indicates the country’s commitment to the provision of clean energy solution to its domestic and industrial use (Schrijver & Weiss 2004). Hydropower provides the most promising alternative to fossil fuels. Hydropower has numerous applications; for instance the powering of electric trains and powering of heavy machinery in industries. However, the initial installation costs remain an enormous barrier. The government of China on its part has taken measures to build major dams on all big rivers in the country such as River Yangtze. Despite the efforts to build these major hydropower projects, there is a challenge of perennial floods that reverses the gains made in this sphere. The dams also cause environmental concerns that have slowed down the progress on this front (Walker & King 2008). 

Sustainable development is a welcomed move throughout the world, but various challenges remain on the path of adopting it. Major world powers should provide favourable conditions that will enable the developing countries to have a smooth transition from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy. The regulations that guide the establishment and use of nuclear energy have limited the use of these sources of power. However, more research in the use of nuclear energy will allay fears on their potential hazards (Sayer & Campbell 2004). Nuclear energy, though free of carbon emissions, produces radiations that also pollutes the environment particularly soil and water. This calls for clear policy guidelines that will also regulate the use of nuclear energy. 


In conclusion, China is one of the countries that provide solutions to the problems of sustainable development as opposed to contributing to the problems. Despite playing an active role in global summits on sustainable development, it has provided technological solutions that have changed the over-reliance on fossil fuels. Cheaper solar panels sold in Europe, America and Africa attest to the fact. These solar panels have provided a cheaper energy solution to many households thus contributing significantly in the reduction of demand in fossil fuels. China further uses foreign human resource especially engineers who play a major role in establishing major hydropower projects across the world (Harrison 2000). This mega hydropower projects have increased the production of clean energy that is used in industries and households. 

It is worth noting that a challenge of sustainable development arises from poor policies or poor implementation strategies. Many countries including China have a good law system that protects the environment but the major problem lies in implementing these laws. China lacks a policy frame work to oversee the implementation. However, sustainable development should have a global face and approach as pollution is a global phenomenon and cannot receive isolated treatment from respective countries. However, China struggles to stay at par with sustainability efforts; the efforts made so far remain laudable and commendable.


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