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Impacts environnementaux de l'industrialisation et du commerce international en Chine : cas de l'émission industrielle de SO2

Abstract : China realized during the last 15 years spectacular economic growth success. However, its
economic growth was also accompanied by serious environmental degradation problems. China has
been ranked as one of the most polluted countries in the world by some international organizations,
particularly on the aspect of air pollution. Although many scholars start to consider China as the future
number one economic power given its current marvelous economic success, the verification of such
hypothesis closely depends on the sustainability of China's future growth path—its actual economic
growth speed can be sustainable only if today's economic achievement is not obtained by mortgaging
that of tomorrow. This dissertation, focusing on the case of industrial SO2 emission in China, aims to
study the potential relationship between economic growth, trade liberalization and environment in
China, in the aims of identifying the possibility, the sufficient and necessary conditions for China to
realize its sustainable development.
After a comprehensive literature review on the existing Environmental Kuznets Curve studies, I
started my analysis by a reduced-form Environmental Kuznets Curve analysis (Chapter 2). The results
showed that although the EKC analysis predicts a turning point at about 9000 yuan (1990 price) for
the case of per capita industrial SO2 emission, the evolution of total industrial SO2 emission seems to
continue its increasing tendency. To understand the underlying reasons for the increasing tendency in
total SO2 emission, I further carried out two structural analyses, in which the structural determinants
of SO2 emission are decomposed either parametrically (Chapter 3) or non-parametrically (Divisia index
decomposition method based on the detailed data on production and SO2 emission intensity of 13
industrial sectors in each province during 1991-2001, Chapter 4) into scale, composition and
technique effects. The results showed that, the per capita income, acting as an omnibus variable
representing all the three aspects of underlying structural determinants, only impart a “net-effect” of
income growth on environment. The real reason for the ever-increasing trend of total industrial SO2
emission in China is actually due to the domination of pollution-increasing impact of scale enlargement
over the pollution-reducing contribution from technical progress, combined with a province-specific
composition transformation which exerts modest pollution-increasing impact in most of the Chinese
provinces, given their current industrialization process.
The second part of this dissertation further amplified my decomposition efforts by giving
particular attention to the emission determination role of international trade. Previously redeemed by
some pessimistic economists as a channel for the richer developed countries to discharge their
pollution burdens to their poorer trade-partners, international trade has been considered as a static
explanation for the formation of the inverted-U-shaped growth-pollution relationship. Nevertheless, all
three analyses carried out in this part, by investigating the different channels through which
international trade can exerts impact on the three determinants of emission, only provide very limited
supportive evidence for the “pollution haven” hypothesis in China. As China's factor-endowment-based
comparative advantages are much attractive than its potential as a “pollution haven”, the conclusion
of the ACT-style (Antweiler, Copeland and Taylor, 2001) model estimation in Chapter 5 shows that
trade liberalization can actually reduce the pollution burden of China's industrialization process by
deviating its industrial composition transformation towards less polluting labour-intensive sectors. By
noticing that the actual role of trade is more complicated, in Chapter 6, I re-employed the
decomposed results of Chapter 4 and further checked the indirect impact of trade (export and import
separated this time) on industrial emission through its three structural determinants. This study
confirmed the significantly positive impact of trade in both scale enlargement and technical progress.
The analysis based on a simultaneous system in Chapter 7 permits me to combine these three
aspects' indirect impact of international trade on emission into the same estimation. Its results reveal
the total role of export in China is environment-friendly while that of import (measured by the
accumulation of imported machinery and equipments) is pollution-enhancing.
In the CGE model analysis in Chapter 8 (Part 3), I related emission results directly to energy
input used in production activities and included the principal coefficients estimated in the previous into
the modelling and simulation work. This model offered me an opportunity to parameterise the multiple
aspects of trade-pollution and growth-pollution nexus and to finally obtain an explicit numerical
comparison between the magnitude of environmental impact of trade and economic growth. This
analysis reveals that, compared to the scale effect resulting from rapid economic expansion in China,
the actual pollution-increasing impact of trade liberalization is very small. The most important pollution
reduction contribution actually comes from efficiency improvement in energy uses and depends largely
on the existence of a more stringent and efficient pollution control policies combined with a flexible
energy substitution process.
Facing the potential dangers for China's future environmental situation, I investigated in the
chapter 9 (Part 3) the potential feedback effect from pollution to China's future growth sustainability.
The analysis reveals a significant negative relationship between industrial SO2 emission and public
health after the industrial SO2 emission density attains the critical threshold of 8g/m2. Fortunately, the
estimated model inn this chapter seems also to reveal some possible dynamism through which the
significant negative impact of industrial SO2 emission on public health status can be gradually reduced
with economic growth. But to realize this dynamism, China need to realise a more-than-proportion
increase in de-sulfur technology investment with respect to its economic growth rate in the coming
years.
To sum up, the analyses carried out in this dissertation actually indicate both opportunity and
challenge for China's pursuit for a sustainable development path. Given the current environmental
deterioration tendency, whether China can preserve its future growth sustainability actually depends
on the existence of the technological capacities to improve the pollution abatement efficiency
(sufficient condition) and the correct function of a stricter pollution control policies (necessary
condition). Both aspects further put forward the requirement for the availability of efficient
institutional and market system in China.
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Submitted on : Friday, December 8, 2006 - 8:55:53 AM
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Jie He. Impacts environnementaux de l'industrialisation et du commerce international en Chine : cas de l'émission industrielle de SO2. Economies et finances. Université d'Auvergne - Clermont-Ferrand I, 2005. Français. ⟨hal-00015396⟩

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