An article in The Guardian reports on He Dongxian’s research on the effects of China’s air pollution on plant growth, in which she claims that should the country’s chronic smog persist, Chinese agriculture will suffer conditions “somewhat similar to a nuclear winter,” severely stunting agricultural production and threatening the country’s food security. This comes on top of a series of other alarming reports on the severe impacts of pollution in China on health and economic well being. Earlier this month, for example, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences claimed in a report that Beijing’s pollution made the city almost “uninhabitable for human beings“. Emergency measure are being taken, schools are being closed, factories shut down, use of cars restricted. People are starting to sue their local environmental protection bureaus for not upholding China’s pollution regulations. In perhaps the first lawsuit of its kind, Shijiazhuang resident Li Guixin claimed that, “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary.”
Recently, Xi Jinping was seen strolling through a Beijing neighborhood, deliberately not wearing a face-mask, just to prove how breathable the air was. And recently local environmental officials have been swimming in local rivers just to prove to people that they’re not deadly. But on the internet, people tend to be less convinced. Xi’s stroll through Beijing was roundly mocked – given the general belief on the streets that China’s leaders breath highly filtered and purified air within their leadership compound at Zhongnanhai. Xi’s health can afford a few minutes unmasked out in the putrid air of the Beijing streets. For most people who must breath that air on a daily basis, though, the health consequences are serious and seemingly growing worse by the day.