China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is the most populous country in the world, with a population of approximately 1.404 billion. The total area of the country is around 9,600,000 square kilometres, making it the 3rd or 4th largest country in the world. China’s one-child policy was introduced in 1979 to slow population growth, but was shifted to a two-child policy in 2016. Extending across much of East Asia, China borders 14 nations in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and Northeast Asia.
One of 17 megadiverse countries, China’s diverse landscape includes the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the north, subtropical forests in the south, and the Himalayan. Karakoram, and Tian Shan mountain. China has a 14,500-kilometer-long coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Prolonged droughts and poor agricultural practices have led to the continued expansion of China’s deserts, especially the Gobi desert, resulting in annual dust storms in northern China. The Ministry of Ecology and environment reported in 2007 that China loses 4,000 square kilometres of land to desertification per year.
The percentage of China’s population living in urban areas increased from 20% in 1980 to 55% in 2016, due to rapid urbanization within the country. Over 160 cities in China boast a population of over one million. One of the fastest-growing cities in the world is Shenzhen, located in China’s Guangdong Province, which has a population of around 20 million. Since economic liberalization n 1979, the city of Shenzhen has become a global technology hub, ranking 22nd in the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index.
Recent decades have seen China suffer from severe environmental deterioration and pollution. Air pollution is a severe health problem in China, leading to over 1.14 million deaths caused by ambient air pollution, and the World Bank estimated in 2013 that the country contains 16 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities. China emits more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world, and the country’s rivers are polluted from additional industrial and agricultural waste. Rapid economic growth and increasing population rates in China have led to demand for water, leading to water quantity shortages. The Chinese government reported in 2014 that 59.6% of groundwater sites in the country are of poor or extremely poor quality. Additionally, melting glaciers in the Himalayas caused by rising temperatures threaten to lead to water shortages for hundreds of millions of people in China. Heavy metal pollution is also a rampant problem in China; pollutants such as lead, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury are emitted through mining, sewage irrigation, and other industrial activities. Heavy metal exposure at high levels cause permanent developmental and intellectual disabilities in the Chinese population. Around 900,000 tons of discharged heavy metals enter waste water, waste gas and solid waste in China annually.
Toxic emissions, largely from factories, have caused high rates of cancer among the Chinese population, particularly lung cancer. In 2015, more than 4.3 million people were newly diagnosed with cancer. China also suffers from frequent and severe natural disasters, many of which are caused by human environmental impacts, including dust storms, droughts, floods, and landslides. Favoring rapid economic development, government officials and local communities often fail to enforce regulations such as the 1979 Environmental Protection Law.
China ratified the Paris agreement in 2016 and has pledged to reach its NDC goals, which includes reducing CO2 emissions, lowering the carbon intensity of the GDP by 60-65%, and increasing non-fossil energy supply sources by 30% by 2030. China’s NDC targets and its attendant national policies are not yet consistent with limiting warming to below 2°C, leading the Climate Action Tracker to rate China’s approach to curbing the effects of climate change as “Highly Insufficient.”
China has a number of significant policies in place to address climate change. China’s wind and solar energy deployment ranks among the fastest in the world. China was responsible for 23% of the global total of GHG emissions in 2012, and is the world’s largest consumer of coal, which accounts for 62% of the country’s energy consumption. The restriction of coal consumption is a priority for the country, as stipulated under China’s 13th Five-Year-Plan (2016-2020). China has not yet implemented policies to address non-CO2 GHG emissions, which means that total GHG emissions are likely to continue increasing before 2030.
In order to address the dire pollution situation in China, the country’s government has been prioritizing environmental quality since 2014. The Chinese State Council’s air pollution measures include the amended Environmental Protection Law, which went into effect at the start of 2015, and the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law, enacted in 2016. These policies allow enforcement official to fine polluters at much higher rates, and to rate the performance of every government official on how well they meet their allocated climate targets. China intensified its pollution crackdown in 2017, collecting fines from over 18,000 polluting companies that totaled over $123.2 million, and disciplining 12,000 officials for sub-standard environmental performance.
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 National Bureau of Statistics of China, “Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2016 National Economic and Social Development,” February, 28, 2017. http://www.stats.gov.cn/english/PressRelease/201702/t20170228_1467503.html.
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China is a potential new “superpower” and prominent player on the global political and economic stage. The country is governed by the Communist Party of China, which exercises jurisdiction over 5 autonomous regions, 22 provinces, 4 municipalities, and the regions in Hong Kong and Macau. As a de facto one-party state, the General Secretary (Party Leader) maintains ultimate authority over the government; since 2012, Xi Jinping has served as China’s General Secretary and President. Having secured the possibility of long-term presidential powers, Xi’s State Council presented a newly-formed Ministry of Ecological Environment in 2018. Under the Xi administration, China has voiced a commitment to increasingly ambitious environmental protection and policymaking. However, while the central Chinese government may issue strict environmental regulations, the actual monitoring and enforcement of these policies are undertaken by local governments that often have a greater interest in economic growth than environmental protection.
In 1974, the Chinese government adopted the Leading Group for Environmental Protection, which in 1988 became the National Environmental Protection Agency. Today, China has more than 20 environmental laws adopted by the National People’s Congress, and the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has issued over 140 executive regulations.
China has participated in international treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Millennium Development Goals. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. China is also a member of the ASEAN Plus Three Free Trade Area and a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Political concerns in China are focused on the growing gap between rich and poor citizens, governmental corruption, and the population’s health problems caused by widespread water, soil and air pollution. China has seen a proliferation of protests and demonstrations against environmental degradation in the country, including a protest in Yinggehai in April 2012 following plans for a power plant in the town; more protests against power plants and waste pipelines took place in July and October 2012, to some success. Over 10,000 environmental NGOs exist in China, serving both provincial and national policy. Working largely towards awareness-raising, these NGOs are related to state organizations to varying degrees.
Due to the underdevelopment and of a comprehensive legal system in China and the country’s decentralized environmental policymaking, executives base environmental practices on perceptions about regulators rather than concerns for legal issues, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. However, international organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claim that China has shown adequate determination to reach its NDCs.
 Carter, N.T. and Mol, A.P.J. Environment Governance in China. London: Routledge (2007).
While much of the country’s transport infrastructure has been built since the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, China has been largely expanding its transport through road networks since the 1990s. China has the longest highway system in the world; in 2011, China’s highways reached a total length of 85,000 kilometers. China’s use of motor vehicles has risen sharply due to the robust road networks, and the country also has the world’s largest market for auto sales and production. Despite the increasing use of automobiles, bicycles remain a common mode of transport in urban areas, and 13 of the world’s 15 largest bike-share systems are located in China. China is the world’s leader in the production of electric bicycles.
China boasts a robust rail network that connects all of its provinces and regions, with the exception of Macau, and the country’s high-speed rail system is the longest network of its kind in the world. The growth of rapid transit systems, particularly in urban areas, has accelerated since 2000; a dozen urban mass transit systems are slated to be added to the 26 existing systems by 2020. The country also has 200 airports, many of which are ranked among the busiest in the world.
Remote and rural areas in China continue to rely heavily on non-mechanized means of transport. The Chinese Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Railways, and the Civil Administration of China jointly oversee the transport in Mainland China. The Transport Department of Hong Kong regulates Hong Kong’s transport, while transport in Macau is governed by the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau of Macau.
The city of Shenzhen enjoys an extensive transport network, including land, water and air transport systems. There are 8 railway stations for passenger service in Shenzhen, and the city is also served by China’s national railway network and high-speed trains. The city’s Metro opened in 2004 and expanded in 2011 and 2016; the city’s Longhua District is also serviced by a light rail Tram system. Shenzhen is plagued by traffic congestion due to buses, taxis and automobiles, but the city has also enjoyed a dock-based public bicycle system since 2011 and a dockless bike-sharing system since 2016.
China’s electric vehicle industry has been rapidly developing in the past decades. China’s two-wheeled electric vehicle industry started under the 1960s planned economy under Maoist rule; by the 1990s, this industry had exploded, reaching over 21 million in annual sales of electric bikes and scooters in 2008. In 2001, China introduced pure EV, hybrid EV and fuel cell vehicles under its “863 EV Project;” in 2007, China invested over $300 million in the development of clean energy vehicles; and by 2011, the Chinese market is populated by various electric vehicle manufacturers, which are supported by research institutes and Universities.
China is motivated to develop electric vehicles due to their higher energy efficiency compared to internal combustion engines. Replacing older automobiles with clean energy vehicles will allow China to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, and to lessen the country’s reliance on oil imports. China is the second-largest petroleum consumer after the United States, and because its vehicle fleet is expected to increase tenfold by 2030 compared to 2005 statistics, the implementation of electric vehicle standards is urgent.