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  • This is China covered in pollution last year.

  • But this year the skies are clear,

  • that's because the coronavirus epidemic

  • had brought much of the country to a standstill

  • for several weeks causing a huge drop in pollutants

  • like nitrogen dioxide,

  • a harmful gas that's emitted when burning fossil fuel.

  • Compared to previous years it's below typical levels.

  • - If you close down factories or reducing the amount

  • of cars on the road you're going

  • to reduce the pollution levels.

  • And from that we can deduce that the economic activity

  • has been decreased.

  • In early February Chinese president,

  • Xi Jinping publicly declared a people's war

  • against the virus,

  • that extreme measures like shutdowns have prevented people

  • from returning to work where necessary.

  • But he also cautioned that those efforts

  • should not jeopardize economic development.

  • Now a dramatic change in pollution over the country suggests

  • that striking that balance could be difficult.

  • In the past few decades China has grown

  • to become the world's largest coal consumer.

  • Its large manufacturing-based economy burns 95&00:01:10,310 --> 00:01:11,750 of the country's coal,

  • making it the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses.

  • Usually during the Lunar New Year most industries wind down

  • for a week and power plants burn a lot less coal.

  • Coal consumption usually rebounds after the week-long break

  • which means pollution levels pick up too.

  • - Because the levels of nitrogen dioxide

  • in China are so high we can easily detect that from space.

  • This is what Wuhan,

  • the epicenter of the coronavirus usually looks like

  • after the holiday.

  • The city is a key producer of automobiles,

  • electronics and heavy machinery.

  • But this year the demand

  • for coal hasn't immediately rebounded since many workers

  • have been stranded at home in locked down cities,

  • and nitrogen dioxide levels have dipped.

  • It's not just Wuhan,

  • it's the same when you look

  • at other industrial powerhouses in China.

  • This is what Shandong and Hebei usually look like

  • after the holiday.

  • They're know for churning out everything

  • from textiles and metals to petrochemicals.

  • But this year they also weren't spared

  • from the impact of the epidemic.

  • While skies were clear in many parts of China,

  • some cities like Beijing are still shrouded in smog.

  • The city has recorded high levels of air pollutants.

  • These fine particles are created

  • during the chemical reaction of gasses generated

  • from burning fuel.

  • Heating systems in Beijing's geography

  • can affect this reading.

  • But there's one huge source of pollution

  • that can't be missed,

  • major steel makers around the capital don't stop production

  • during the holiday because going offline is costlier

  • than running all year round.

  • So during the city shutdown some factories continue

  • to produce steel.

  • Li Hongmei is an analyst

  • who tracks the Chinese metal industry.

  • - Because of the outbreak all the normal pattern

  • has been broken so the construction sites are still

  • in the process of resuming work,

  • that's why their steel consumption slow down and delayed.

  • - [Narrator] Steel inventories are now at record high levels

  • because buyers in the construction industry

  • are demanding less right now.

  • Home sales were already cooling before the virus,

  • now they're below last year levels.

  • - Whenever you're not so sure about your national economy

  • you're not so sure about your job security,

  • about your income.

  • People definitely will be reducing expenditure

  • in a investment.

  • - [Narrator] In recent days Xi has been touting efforts

  • to meet economic targets while containing the virus,

  • like heavy stimulus to support banks and tax cuts

  • for small businesses.

  • But analysts say it's not clear whether these measures

  • can help make up for lost ground.

  • Some factories are slowly resuming production.

  • - So pollution levels that we're observing from space

  • are beginning to increase which may indicate

  • that economic activity could be resuming.

  • - [Narrator] Beijing recently put out the first full month

  • of economic data after the virus hit China.

  • The index tracks business sentiment among manufacturing

  • and service sectors and it falls

  • below the lowest level recorded

  • during the global financial crisis.

  • An increase in the number of infections overseas

  • could also put China's economy at greater risk,

  • complicating efforts to meet Xi's economic goals

  • for this year.

  • For now, one of the most visible indicators

  • to see how it all plays out might be just

  • to look up at the skies.

  • (relaxing music)

This is China covered in pollution last year.

Subtitles and keywords

B1 INT US pollution coal economic china steel dioxide

What China's Pollution Says About Coronavirus and the Economy | WSJ

  • 130 3
    Seraya   posted on 2020/03/12
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