English is undoubtedly the global language. It is the most common second language on earth, as well as the most studied. This, of course, being symbolic of America’s global influence. The prominence of English in Madrid speaks (get it? It “speaks”) the same volumes as the McDonalds, Levis stores, and Five Guys that crowd Gran Vía. However, one must ask themselves, will Mandarin soon take English’s place? Will we soon live in a Mandarin speaking world symbolic of China’s succesful economic triumph over the US? This is a reality that America avidly fights to prevent, but should we?
The numbers (in English)
While America accounts for 23.93% of the global economy, China comes at a close second, making up 18.45%. This is shocking considering that only twenty years ago the Chinese economy was just 14% as large as America’s. This rapid economic growth is stunning, and according to Goldman Sachs China could eclipse the US economy within the decade. These developments have undoubtedly benefited China, this being evident in the extremely impressive statistics showing how much of the Chinese population was removed from poverty during these past twenty years. However, the rest of the article will proceed from an environmentalist perspective.
As an American, this idea of Chinese economic superiority doesn’t scare me. In fact, I argue that we should let China outpace the US if they so desire to (Perhaps I’ve lived in Spain too long, and the siesta lifestyle has changed me). However, especially as wildfires make air unbreathable over the American east coast, I don’t believe that America is, nor should be, willing to do what China is clearly capable of to be the world’s number one power.
For example, the PRC is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter as well as the largest source of marine debris. The graph pictured shows that, while America begins to lower its CO2 emissions, China does quite the opposite. Additionally, China is the 13th most polluted country in the world, with Beijing’s particle pollution being 40% higher than the most polluted US state.
Wind, Water, Earth & Health
From an environmental standpoint, an economic victory over China is not worth poisoning our water, land, and world.. As former US Secretary of State Micheal Rompeo said, “Too much of the Chinese Communist Party’s economy is built on willful disregard for air, land, and water quality. The Chinese people–and the world–deserve better.”
As shown in the above chart, China, the number one global polluter, significantly out-shares the US in terms of their world share of carbon dioxide emissions. It is important to note that the US share of global pollutants is nearly triple that of its share of the world population, while China’s is barely double. However, the US still has a 2% larger share of the world economy, while producing significantly, less than half, of the pollution that China does.
To me, the air I breathe and the water I drink is more important than the economic prowess of my nation. Why is this? The graphs to the right picture the prevalence of PM2.5 pollutants in China, and then the prevalence of respiratory illness mortality. To drive this point home, I encourage all readers to access the National Library of Medicine source given for these graphs.
The study introduction gives a very concerning list of the correlated health issues of PM2.5 exposure, one that, quite concerningly, is too long to be included here. It is even more shocking to note that this data ranges only from 2004 to 2008. As I mentioned before, the Chinese economy has done nothing but boom in the time since then, and accordingly, this situation has grown even worse. For a comparison, on Broadway Street in New York City this past month PM2.5 has averaged at around 12µg/m3, which would make it the lightest color pictured on the 2004-2008 map of China.
The bottom line
As a staunch environmentalist (albeit one who leads a lifestyle hypocritical to that) I argue that our air, water, and earth are the most important issues to be considered. If seeing China surpass the US is the price to pay to keep American air breathable, then so be it.