The state of Chinese environment today must be placed in the context of the extraordinary development that it has accomplished and of the continuing challenges it will face in the upcoming decades. Since 1981, China has lifted approximately 500 million people out of absolute poverty, an unprecedented achievement.
China, a country of continental scale, has experienced inequality in many shapes and forms throughout its 4000-year history. Part of this inequality is regional; attributable to China’s sheer size and the diversity of its geography.
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China faces severe water shortages. Its current water per capita is one quarter of the world average, yet its overall per capita usage is still low by international standards but this will increase over the coming decades. The water that China does have is often badly polluted and is inefficiently used.
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With a total area of nearly 9,600,000 square kilometers, China’s landmass is slightly smaller than that of Europe. It stretches about 5,000 km from east to west, and about 5,500 km from north to south.
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Ensuring food security in China has been both a priority and a challenge for Chinese leaders throughout the ages. With China currently supporting 20% of the world’s population on approximately 10% of the world’s arable land, today is no exception.
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China’s enormous population is one of the country’s most defining features. With the largest population in the world, almost one-fifth of the global total, it factors into nearly every significant issue facing the country including employment, consumption, the environment, and migration.
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Environmental degradation in China has increased significantly in the last 30 years. In 2000, China’s EPA found that two thirds of China’s 300 largest cities had air quality which exceeded WHO standards.
China faces a severe water shortage. Its current water per capita is one quarter of the world average. This per capita water availability will decrease in the coming decades as China’s population peaks at between 1.4 and 1.5 billion people by 2030.
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