Tag Archives: air pollution
It is by now a truism that in economic terms, China is where it’s at. Ever since Deng Xiaoping formulated Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and gave his blessing to private enterprise on a grand scale, the People’s Republic of China has charted an inexorable rise to planetary fiscal dominance: already the second largest economy in the world and – as the United States government’s largest creditor – holding the number one economy in the world exactly where it wants it, it is a very brave person who would bet against the world’s most populous nation defining the twenty-first century.
Yet on the ground, a central paradox looms: as China’s middle class develops and becomes wealthier, one of its most prominent ambitions is to leave mainland China altogether. A story from CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, illustrates just how strongly this desire is being felt: aware of Québec‘s pragmatic immigration policy – the province has no migrant cap in place, but instead requires most immigration applicants to demonstrate a working knowledge of the French language – French courses in Beijing are suddenly overwhelmingly popular, with Alliance Française having to turn away students from fully subscribed programmes.
And this trend is not limited to Canada, or even other relatively obvious immigration destinations such as Australia and the United States: Chinese communities are popping up in countries such as Bulgaria (where at least a few thousand Chinese nationals reside), Kyrgyzstan (a neighbouring state whose passport offers visa-free travel to Russia and Turkey) and Panama, where tens of thousands of PRC citizens have emigrated in recent decades.
None of these nations are exactly natural destinations for those seeking fame and fortune. Yet they all offer an escape from one particular reality: while some of the world’s most powerful economic agents – investment banks and international footballers spring to mind – have the perhaps understandable perception of China as the next best thing since sliced hyperpower, day-to-day existence on the ground for most Chinese citizens remains characterised by needless problems and logjams. Denial of life’s basics – clean(ish) air and uncontaminated food, freedom of expression, and the legal right to choose the size of one’s family – does not translate into a high quality of life, and educated, middle-class people who are highly Internet-literate know this. If China is going to fulfil its potential as the undisputed giant of twenty-first century world affairs, it is going to have to sweat the small stuff.