When our China lawyers are asked to assist foreign companies in determining where to locate in China, the first thing we do is ask that they fill out a long questionnaire to better enable us to gauge what is and what is not important in their choice of China location.

We ask our clients to rank various items by level of importance to them, including a whole slew of quality of life issues like local education and healthcare. We will be adding a new one: concern about pollution.

Greenpeace China just released a summary of its 2013 survey [in Chinese only] of China air quality and to quote China Hush, “the results are clear: the air isn’t.”

The survey looked at 74 Chinese cities and of those 74, not a single one met the World Health Organization’s recommendations for 2.5 micrometers or less of particulate matter.

In reviewing the Greenpeace list, I note the following regarding China cities in which foreign companies commonly conduct business :

  • The six most polluted cities (Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Handan, Henghui, Tangshan) are all in Hebei province. The seventh worst city is Jinan (did I call this or what?). Xi’an is 9th worst, Tianjian is 11th worst, Beijing is 13th worst, Wuhan is 14th worst, Chengdu is 15th worst, Hefei is 17th worst, Changsha is 20th worst, Nanjing is 24th worst.
  • The following cities did fairly well: Qingdao came in at 47 out of the 74 cities, just ahead of Shanghai at 47, and Guangzhou and Dalian at 55 and 57, respectively.
  • The 10 least polluted cities included Xiamen, Fuzhou, Kunming and Shenzhen.

I would venture to say that nobody who does much business with China does not know at least one person who has left China because of its pollution, usually out of concern for their kids. Because two of our firm’s China attorneys reside in Qingdao (the others are in Beijing), we are also aware of a number of people/companies leaving cities like Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu for relatively less polluted Qingdao.

I see this pollution list as important and I would venture to say that foreign companies will be using it as a factor in determining where to locate in China.

What do you think?

  • bystander

    >> nobody who does much business with China knows anyone who has not left China because of its pollution

    I’m really nitpicking here, but, we’re among lawyers here (haha): you don’t mean to say what that says. There are > 1 billion people in China who have not left because of its pollution (they haven’t left at all in fact).

    • Damn, you totally got me on this one and I deserve it as I have taken far too much pleasure from nailing others on just this sort of thing. Since there are still a few people left in China, I have revised the post to reflect this.

  • Francis du Bois

    Take me to Qingdao – but first I need to find a job there for my wife before she would agree.

    A Lao Beijing Ren

  • BugsBunny

    Its great to bash China, however we in the West have outsourced our dangerous and dirty industries to China, not only to save money but to pollute as much as we want and not have to breath it in. Back in the 50s London had coal based smog that killed quite a few people.

    • billposer

      China’s poor air quality is not due to outsourcing from the West. It is due to industrialization combined with the fact that China’s major source of energy has long been bituminous coal, which produces both a lot of particulates and sulfur compounds. China has been trying to replace coal with cleaner sources, such as natural gas and hydroelectricity for decades.

  • Fabian

    My wife and I left Beijing due to the pollution issues, it really gets you after a while. Even we don’t have kids, our own quality of live and health was concern enough.