China has garnered the reputation as one of the highest-polluting nations due to it being one of the manufacturing capitals of the world. In addition, its expansive population adds to their extensive consumption of goods and resources. It has been stated that without Chinese efforts in sustainability, a global effort would not be effective by large. Luckily the Chinese government and its peoples are seeing the effect that pollution is having locally and globally.
There has been a shift amongst party leaders to make environmental concerns a priority. Even President Xi Jinping was a staunch advocate of the Paris Agreement. Unregulated mass manufacturing has reached a tipping point with air quality hovering around PM 2.5 levels, which is enough particulate matter able to reach deep in the lungs. Over the Summer the government enacted an inspection and shut down of factories that did not meet regulations.
During the shut downs, the textile industry was not hit as hard as previously thought. It was reasonable to believe it would. According to Green Initiatives, “53 percent of the world’s textile production waste comes from China, an estimated 70,000 tonnes every day, with 2.5 billion tonnes of polluted waste water produced annually.” This shows how large the impact the fashion industry has on global sustainability efforts.
China’s growing middle class has expressed interest in sustainable fashion and select younger designers are committed to create garments that do not add to the problem. In an interview with The Business of Fashion, Shayway Yeh the editorial director of Modern Media Group said there is a problem that will keep the industry stagnant. She says, “The problem is that too many people here view sustainability in isolation. That’s why my approach is to package it as part of a holy trinity. When you combine sustainability principles with tech innovation and truly artistic creativity, that’s when you start to make progress and get real sustainability dividends.”
It will be up to the Chinese middle and upper middle class to create demand for more sustainable fashion and goods, but the government is trying to help those efforts along. In the same report, they stated the governments five-year plan for economic and social development has set some outlines. This includes a goal of 4.5 million tonnes for recycled textile production by 2020. In addition, if more factories need to be shut down so they reach compliance they will do so. With the inclusion of Chinese efforts, a a more sustainable finally feels in reach.