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The Extent to Which the Growth of China and India Brings Social Benefits but Environmental Problems

Updated on July 10, 2016

China's growth has most explicitly brought social development, by raising over 640 million people out of poverty in the last 35 years, thereby increasing the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, and growing its middle class. However, this has been at the cost of environmental degradation, with 80% of urban groundwaters polluted, and acid rain falling on 30% of its land.

Furthermore, it could be argued that China's growth has brought some negative social impacts in developing nations, such as Angola, where China continues to extract oil; it provides construction, e.g. roads, which tends not to employ locals, in return for oil exploration rights, leaving the developing country with poor terms of trade, reduced energy security, debt, and, resultantly, a lower potential quality of life.

Pollution in the Oshiwara River in Mumbai.
Pollution in the Oshiwara River in Mumbai. | Source

India's growth has, so far, failed to reduce the growth of slums, such as Dharavi, although it has brought urbanisation, which has greatly reduced the impact of the caste system.

India has not yet caused environmental problems on the same scale as China, but with at least 300 million people living in extreme poverty, and 600 people defecating on the streets, there is still widespread pollution; Mumbai has the worst air pollution of any city, and water cannot be drunk from taps, similar to in China.

The growth of India and China has undoubtedly caused rapid increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and thus contributed to global warming. This growth has occurred at the same time as India increasing its average life expectancy from 37 to 66 since it gained independence in 1947.

China's economic growth has reduced the communist nature of its government; people now have slightly more freedom to use the internet and publish critical articles, yet they are still at risk of detainment; China imprisons more journalists than any other nation.

In conclusion, the growth of the economies of China and India appears to have brought both social benefits and environmental problems; whilst having some negative social impacts on a global scale, it has simultaneously reduced prices for manufactured goods, and proved that a poorer nation can rise to global influence without following a western model, e.g. modernisation theory. Further growth will begin to reverse the environmental impacts, and will eventually lead to the development of new technologies, which will improve the global quality of life.


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