What's the issue and how is it related to Modern China?
Recently the air pollution in Northern China has reached very hazardous levels for multiple days at a time. Currently on record more than 460 million people in China are exposed to this heavy or hazardous pollution from smog-causing coal used in power generation. The death rate due to the pollution has been going up everyday, with premature deaths about a million a year, but other sources say around 300,000 to 500,00 which is still a lot. Almost 1.6 million people die every year, which is 4,400 people per day.
The reason why this topic is a legacy of the modern past of China, is because of Maoism, the adaptation of Communist doctrines by Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong was the leader of the Chinese Revolution in 1949. He had a central idea permanent revulsion and stressing the importance of peasantry, small-scale industry, and of agricultural collectivization. China is now one of the top manufacturing countries, which would never of happened without Maoism.
The fight against pollution
Beijing is currently suffering from a "war on pollution", because Beijing is the worlds largest coal consumer, which is creating air quality problems. Even though they declared "war" on pollution, the are still facing obstacles in improving air quality after decades. China was making impressive progress towards cleaner air in 2014 and 2015 after it issue a national air pollution action plan to reduce coal consumption. This did not work and over the past nine months, the government economic policies shifted towards stimulating some of the heavy industry sectors that are responsible for the heavy pollution in Beijing.
What is actually in the air?
The tiny particle that is creating such a huge issue is PM2.5. PM2.5 are extremely fine particles, mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels. They are thought to penetrate deep into the lungs and cause long term health effects in humans. Because of PM2.5, 84% of the countries population in China live in areas with "unacceptably high" levels of air pollution. Before 2013, the levels of PM2.5 were not monitored or made public is a single city. Currently its monitored and released in more than 400 cities. China has finally entered an era when air quality information is released.
China is moving to a consumption-led economy and authorities have acted to trim heavy industry overcapacity, including shutting down small coal boilers among other factories. By doing this the loss of jobs and business opportunities has stirred social unrest. This is going against Maoism because Maoism is completely focused on the idea and importance of industry. Because the air is so bad, in some cities flights and schools have been cancelled and closed.
The government plans to reduce the PM2.5 particles in the air by 2020.
The government banned wearing masks to prevent pollution because they feel that the masks are a sign of pollution. Also, there is also a social unrest about air purifiers. Some schools are using them and others aren't. Schools and authorities are telling the people just to trust the government. The only problem with using air purifiers is that it is not practically affordable, and also would crash multiple electrical systems in China.
Affecting the Economy
Because the air pollution is so bad, it is causing sick days and hospital visits. They sick days and hospital visits are all taking a toll on the urban economy. The high levels of pollution are linked to illnesses, like heart disease and lung cancer, which are both costly to treat. The Air pollution is also affecting tourism and outdoor recreation.
Agriculture was also a huge part of maoism, and the legacy of modern china. Because of the air pollution, China's crops are damaged to, also about 20% of China's soil is contaminated. The countries largest rice growing province, Hunan, has soil that's laced with heavy metals from factories. This pollution taints the countries food supply.