According to new Gallup poll, the majority of China’s residents prioritize the environment over the economy. 57% of Chinese adults surveyed in 2011 put the environment before the country’s economic issues, even at the risk of slowing down economic growth.
Surprisingly, this is a common viewpoint of residents in many emerging-market economies. Americans have consistently prioritized environmental protection over economic growth, notably between 1985 and 2008. However, when the American economy took a big hit in 2008-09, so did the environmental concern of many residents, putting economic growth back on top. If China’s economy continues to worsen, this may indicate what’s on the horizon for them, too.
According to the poll, about half of the 22% of Chinese who did not put the environment first answered that they didn’t know for sure. Those without an opinion were more likely to be poor rural residents with little, if any, education beyond elementary school, a possible indicator for a lack of knowledge on the issues.
As far as protecting the environment, China has a long way to go before it catches up to many other countries. However, it is also investing significant amounts of money in new, cleaner energy sources and low-carbon technology, heavily reducing its reliance on coal.
As urban areas expand very quickly, it’s likely China’s environment will get worse before it gets better. Strict urbanization policies may be necessary to sustain responsible use of natural resources such as land, air, water, and energy. Cities such as Tianjin, Qingdao, and Shenyang have all shown strong leadership in this area, and will hopefully pave the way for China’s sustainable future.
Do you think it’s possible to address concerns of both economy and environment at the same time, without compromising either?