Text by Yin Xing
Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shanxitogether are known as the Bohai EconomicRim. But now the area has a new embarrassingnickname: Haze Circle around theCapital.
The capital already has reasonableindustrial and energy infrastructure; Beijing’ssmog primarily comes from auto exhaust.According to the Tracing the Smogreport from the Chinese Academy of Sciences,the biggest source of PM2.5 foundin Beijing is vehicle emissions, which accountfor one fourth of the total. The othertwo biggest contributors are coal burningand pollution drifting in from peripheral areas, especially Hebei Province. Accordingto statistics from the first quarter of2013, seven cities in Hebei ranked amongthe top ten most polluted in China. Onceconsidered the capital’s “moat and nutritionbase,” Hebei is now known to Beijingers asthe chief culprit of Beijing’s haze.
But actually, Hebei provides for Beijing’sconsumption, supplying the capitalwith five percent of its electricity. Accordingto statistics from Greenpeace, coalpower generators are the largest singlesource of industrial PM2.5 pollution inHebei. The Chinese Association of Electricityshowed that in 2011, 153 coal powerplants in Hebei made up 73 percent of thetotal installed capacity in the area includingBeijing, Tianjin and Hebei. In 2008when Beijing hosted the Olympic Games,in order to prevent air pollution in the capital,Shougang (Steel) Group was relocatedto Caofeidian in Hebei, at a cost of over 50billion yuan. “The pollution accompaniedShougang here,” the head of one Hebeicounty’s publicity department sighed.“Beijing keeps a high profile and notes thatit moved many industries to Hebei. Weadmit we gained some revenue, but Beijingcannot blame all of its pollution on us. Weare under too much pressure.”
“Hebei is not even the most typical exporterof power at the cost of environment,”remarks Dr. Liu Zhu, Giorgio RuffoloFellow in Sustainability Science at HarvardUniversity. “Over 30 percent of pollutionin Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region isthe result of power supplied to Beijing. Thecapital plans to relocate heavy industry andcoal power plants to undeveloped westernareas of the country. This will increasetransport costs and energy consumption,which will result in greater total carbonemissions. Furthermore, poor technologyand environmental protection consciousnessin central and western China makes itharder to cope with contamination.”