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By considering the environment as an exploitable external element, an organisation can generate high profit for some time. China, for instance, is a developing country that has ignored the gravity of the environmental issues that western countries have been attempting to resolve by setting high standards and formulating new laws, for the sake of economic growth.
As reported by the Chinese Ministry of Health, in fact, the country has been focussing on its economic rise without caring about the consequences that such a rapid and uncontrollable industrialisation could bring. (China Daily, 2007)
As a result of such negligence, pesticides, water and air pollution are among the factors that have made cancer the most common cause of death in 78 counties; in a village situated in Guangdong province, which is regarded as one of the most industrialised and productive areas in China, around 250 people were killed by cancer between 1987 and 2005. (China Daily, 2007)
Now, the question is: for how long can China keep neglecting the environment at the expense of human lives? According to Dr. Lin Jiabin (The Guardian, 2009), the problems China is currently facing and the pressure that has been put on its government, factories and farms by developed countries result from the distorted mentality that Chinese people have been developing during the years of industrialisation, according to which growth and sustainable development are two separate concepts, as the former refers to profit generation, whereas the latter has to do with people’s happiness. Dr. Lin (The Guardian, 2009) suggested that China should recognise the importance of development and the unbreakable relationship between GDP growth, sustainability and public welfare, in order to become like Japan, which became industrialised in less than a century and managed to keep a predominant position in the world economy. Should China refuse to do so, its negligence will no doubt cause a chain reaction that will put a stop to its growth and undo all the benefits that its high productivity has brought the country so far, in terms of economic growth.
Ever since China became a WTO member (WTO News, 2001), its exports have been higher than its imports, which has caused the international community to complain about a number of issues, such as child labour, pollution, low quality standards and unfair currency policies. Last year, China announced that it would let the Yuan be more flexible, and this decision was seen as a constructive step by President Barack Obama. (BBC News, 2010)
In 2006, the international community (China.org.cn, 2006) let China know of their worries about the way the government was dealing with issues such as pollution, contamination and resource management and, in the same year, the government announced that the national GDP had fallen by around 20% as a result of environmental pollution, which impedes development and growth. (Xinhua News Agency, 2006)
There are, then, a number of factors that might cause China’s exports to drop in the future. In the first place, numerous environmentalists and scientists (Adam, D. & Goldenberg, S., 2009) have been complaining about and protesting against the damages that China’s thirst for power and economic goals have caused to the environment and, even though their voices have not reached every consumer in the western world, those of Chinese activists who demonstrated in August, demanding the closure of a company used toxic chemicals to produce polyester. (The Economist, 2011). However, the fact that the government announced that it would close that plant means that something is finally changing in China. As reported by Mike Adams (2007), the Food and Drug Administration analysed several products coming from China and advised consumers not to purchase China-made food, perfumes, creams or any other products intended for personal care, for many of them contain deadly poisons and toxic chemicals. The reason why such chemicals are preferred to natural or harmless ingredients is not easy to guess: cost. This way, Chinese manufacturers save loads of money on production costs and can keep their prices low and competitive.
This type of strategies might bring high profits in the short run, but at some point consumers will refuse to purchase products that might have been made by underpaid children using toxic chemicals or dangerous substances which pollute the environment and governments will have to take measures to stop China from becoming the world’s greatest economic power at the expense of the environment and human lives. That is sure to be a good reason to start considering being more collaborative, rewarding sustainable companies, penalising the ones that pollute and investing in sustainable development, which, unlike rapid and uncontrollable industrialisation, will certainly bring positive results in the long run, just like it happened in Japan, as Dr. Lin Jiabin (The Guardian, 2009) observed.
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