China has transformed over the past four decades from an economic backwater to an unrivaled industrial power that consumes huge amounts of raw materials and energy. The tremendous change has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but also polluted the country’s air and water.
“The environment is near the point of no return,” Alex Wolf, an economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said in a recent research note.
China’s economy has long taken priority over other concerns. Local governments tasked with meeting ambitious growth targets have historically kept the furnaces burning at massive state-owned businesses even when there’s no demand for their products.