Like it or not, many of us in the West are dependent on China for everything from affordable consumer goods and medical devices to employment and reliable equity.
That means that the state of the Chinese economy has a direct bearing on our financial well-being.
Obviously, we are helping secure our financial security by purchasing their goods and investing in the rapidly growing Chinese economy. However, a less obvious economic threat that Western consumers have no control over is the deplorable state of the environment in China.
The industrial machine that has fueled the surging Chinese economy and Western consumerism has unfortunately left a wasteland in its wake. This eventually becomes an economic problem. First, a mass protest in August of 12,000 people took place in Dalian, China, against a local chemical plant that risked a spill of the chemical paraxylene during a storm.
This is only one example of a variety of protests that have occurred against the chemical and manufacturing sector. The protest was enough of a problem for China to block related keywords on Meibo, China’s version of Twitter.
What we can take away from this incident is that the possibility of environmental damage poses more than just purely political or economical problems. Issues, both economical and political, can lead to destabilizing social unrest.
And when strikes begin, the labor intensive sectors that make Chinese exports so attractive face a significant threat, not to mention the significant threats of resource depletion and food security that such pollution presents.
Any threat to the manufacturing sector would not only have consequences for the Chinese economy, but also ours, given how intertwined we are. Strikes or unrest in plants that produce consumer goods could also significantly drive up the prices for Western consumers.
So when you hear politicians talking about how it is both politically unfeasible and economically nonsensical to place pressure on China for environmental change, remember that it is not just the environment – your bank account could also end up paying the price.
Amith Ravindar is a sophomore majoring in physics.