China shuts down factories in pollution purge

A large number of factories in the People's Republic of China have faced shutdowns in recent months as new anti-pollution measures begin to be enforced.

Polluting factories in China are being shut down in an air quality crackdown. Image courtesy of Flickr - Leo Fung
Polluting factories in China are being shut down in an air quality crackdown. Image courtesy of Flickr – Leo Fung.

Reportedly, up to 40% of all factories in China have been hit with temporary shutdowns, however, the exact time frame in which these shutdowns have occurred in is so-far unclear.

These disruptions have resulted in significant production delays for multiple local and international businesses, with knock-on effects expected to affect many product delivery dates.

In total, more than 80,000 factories have been affected by these halts in operations, which are being led by officials from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

These officials are doing snap inspections of factories which they suspect of non-compliance with China’s air pollution legislation.

Such legislation has been in force for several years in China, however in the past enforcement was lax and factories could always take advantage of a corrupt bureaucracy in order to avoid raids.

Now, however, reducing the dangerous levels of air pollution in Chinese cities has been elevated to a top national priority in the lead-up to and during the 19th CPC National Congress.

Primarily, the country is looking to reduce the amount of dangerous sub-2.5μm particulate matter in the air (known as PM2.5).

On the sidelines of this month’s CPC National Congress, the country announced new targets to reduce this kind of pollution.

The new target is to cut the concentration of PM2.5 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter by 2035 from a 2016 level of 47 micrograms per cubic meter.

Nonetheless, top officials have stated that this will be a difficult target to meet and the public will need to express “patience”.

“It will be very difficult to reach the goal, and we need to make greater efforts to achieve it,” said Minister of Environmental Protection Li Ganjie at a press conference.

Clearly, China is making an attempt to send a message to local manufacturers to clean up their act, and that the free-wheeling days of the past are over.

In the longer term, this may add some additional costs to manufacturing within China, however, will provide immense social and environmental benefits for the country should these targets be met.