Environmental Protection in China: What Lies Ahead?

As winter is slowly approaching the Middle Kingdom, locals and expats get more and more concerned over the air quality, and more broadly the environment. During the cold season, centralized heating is switched on in Chinese cities, them being fueled by coal makes the air quality drop significantly.

Nevertheless, China has been switching toward a new attitude regarding the environment, aiming at a “Greener China”, which should contribute to a brighter winter sky. Following our introduction to China’s Green policy in our article “Chinese New Economic Orientations: What You Need to Know”, we will now go into more detail about what you need to know about the topic, exploring what lies ahead in terms of policies, outcomes, and also the opportunities one could take advantage of in the near future.

The Current Situation

For many years, economic growth has been China’s priority, focusing on its GDP and people’s standard of living. However, this is no longer the case, as it appears pollution represents a threat to the Chinese economy and as the Chinese population gets more and more concerned over the danger pollution represents for its daily life and the of its children.

China is famous for being the 2nd world’s greatest polluter, factories and power plants are held responsible for a major part of the country’s air, soil, and water pollution, which most noticeable consequences have been heavy smog and tap water being unhealthy.

Objectives & Measures

aerial view of green trees and mountains during daytime

4 main objectives have been highlighted by the Chinese government:

  • Reduce the weight of the coal industry to reach better air quality, which translates into dismantling coal-fired power plants, and cutting particulate-matter emission rate.
  • Better regulation in the implementation of the following policies thanks to the relevant government's administration being more powerful than before.
  • Foster and invest in greener companies, thanks to an environment tax and thanks to attracting foreign green investments.
  • Make the Belt and Road Initiative – China’s greatest economic project – green.

In 2015, the new Environment Protection Law came into effect, whose main measures are:

  • Allowing the environment protection department to seize, impound, or close facilities that cause serious environmental pollution, penalties and punishments for non-compliance have also been made heavier. In 2016 the Ministry of Environmental Protection set up the Central Environmental Protection Inspection to monitor the implementation of the policies previously listed resulting in 1, 140 officials being disciplined. Factories have been moved away from big cities to reduce air pollution, and even private households in the North of the country have been demanded to switch from coal heating to natural gas.
  • Fiscal advantages are granted to industries complying with the government’s agenda, as well as lenient borrowing policies. The solar panel industry has been one of the main beneficiaries of this policy, to the point that without the government’s support, a majority of the companies would have to cease their activity.

Economic Opportunities

As we evoked earlier, China is - and plans to continue - investing heavily in the environmental industry, investment in the environmental sector is projected to exceed RMB15 trillion during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).

Which industry could one invest or develop a business in?

  • Provision of equipment and services for environmental pollution control;
  • Removal of pollutants;
  • Water treatment;
  • Energy conservation;
  • Clean production;
  • Collection, safe disposal, recycling, and recovery of waste resources;
  • Services related to the protection of resources and the natural ecology.

Pollution is an issue China targets heavily, even making it an economic orientation as the country is aiming to become an international leader in this particular topic.

In the meantime, ASI Movers knows that expatriates are still concerned about the air quality as well as how to avoid suffering short or long-term pollution side effects. Here are a few tips one should follow to minimize the effects of the current Chinese environment:

  • Wear a mask: to prevent yourself from absorbing harmful particulates, wearing a mask is a good option. However, make sure to choose a qualitative one: too often people wear surgical masks or simply one made out of cloth, both not protecting you efficiently. As such, make sure yours features a carbon filter, that its rating is good, that it fits your face securely, and that you can easily breathe in.
  • Buy an air purifier for your home, the best always being having one in each room.
  • Surround yourself with plants as they are natural air purifiers.
  • Exercise regularly: people doing so enjoy a better respiratory system which regenerates faster.
  • Check the air quality before leaving your home: many Apps having this feature are available, which can help you plan your day accordingly (if the air quality is too poor, outdoor physical activity for instance is not recommended).


ASI Movers has been helping expats relocate from, to, and within China for more than 10 years, we know the problems and concerns expats face daily and try our best for your experience in China to be the smoothest possible!

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