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Will China's Smog Drive out Manufacturing Jobs?


While China remains a popular destination for expats, they aren't relocating for the air quality. The smog and haze that hung over Beijing this weekend pushed the pollution index to an all-time high. But what could help the Chinese lower their pollution levels may be just what Americans need to salvage the US manufacturing market: inshoring.

Health risks aside, China’s pollution has caused several other major disruptions, from the cancellation of sports events and airline flights to the closure of some highways.

Even businesses were affected, with many factories and construction sites reducing work or stopping altogether until the air quality improved.

According to the Xinhua news agency, the number of people seeking hospital treatment for respiratory problems has risen sharply. Many are calling for the city to cut down on the number of cars on the streets, but cars aren't the only problem.

As the largest coal importer in the world, China accounts for almost half the world's coal consumption for electricity generation. The U.S., it turns out, provides a large portion of China's imported coal, as well as the manufacturing jobs that require power from the mucky fossil fuel.

“China is now the largest importer of coal in the world. Thu U.S. is one of the largest exporters,” said Chris Burton, general/operations manager at Sentry Precision Sheet Metal Ltd. “The smog will eventually come to North America along with all the products manufactured in China. Why not eliminate the middle man?”

This opportunity for insourcing comes after a clarification of trade relations between the U.S. and China that triggered a massive loss in manufacturing jobs here at home.

But whether we act for the good of the environment or the good of the economy, China's air pollution problem might be just the impetus the US needs to move our manufacturing back to the States.

As for China, the biggest problem seems to be that even if the country's air quality were to improve, it wouldn't be going from bad to good – just worse to bad. “It's no wonder China wants to take the lead developing cleaner tech for cars and electricity,” said Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza. “So far, judging by air quality alone, the country is losing the battle.”

Full story at Forbes

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