Kai Xue writes:
But I say in plain honesty that terrible air pollution while taken as mandarin indifference to public demands is to the contrary a manifestation of commitment to a mass middle class by the Chinese political system.
Policy deliberately trades off public health for blue collar jobs. Around Beijing are industries including steel mills and cement plants that are major polluters. About 1 in 10 tonnes of the world’s steel output is smelted in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. With so much local heavy industry, cleaning the air would start with plant closures that cause concentrated unemployment.
Whether this bargain of clean air for economic growth is a good deal is a fair question but whether it is virtuous public policy depends on the extent decision-makers are subject to or instead insulated from the consequences of self-produced actions.
Beijing is the seat of power in a centralized state. About one third of the thousands who hold junior ministerial rank or higher and many of the very rich reside here.
Regardless of stature, for every Beijing inhabitant air pollution is the most serious public concern.
That is from an Atlantic article by James Fallows.