For the last few decades, China has become one of the world's powerhouses. Most of its industrial cities include factories that are used to make products which mostly fill the shelves of North America and Europe. In fact, China annually exports an equivalent of more than a trillion dollars US worth of products. The air pollution which China keeps for itself kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. The main cause of death is now cancer, which is also caused by the thick smog and ash that drifts off from factories and resides in large amounts in areas.
The economy is on a historic run, posting double digit growths, but things that would seem bad in other countries are becoming more common in China: cities where people do not see the sun on a daily basis, areas of the coastline that are so swamped by algae that much of it can no longer support marine life, and nearly 500 million people who lack access to safe drinking water.
Many of China's factories use coal as their power: the most polluting, but plentiful source avaliable. As some might say it, China's problem has become the world's problem. Sulphur dioxides spewed by Chinese factories fall as coal ash on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan. Over-farming, irrigation, and severe water shortages have turned much farmland into desert, and is threatening to continue to do so. Before, the Gobi desert had duststorms that hit China once a decade. Now, as it expands towards the south, they hit once a year. They are so severe that visibility is limited to less than a block.
Pollution, overhunting, and land development are killing many species. China has some of the richest troves of biodiversity on the planet, but surveys say that nearly 40% of mammals in China are endangered. For plants, they paint a bleaker picture: Nearly 70% of non-flowering plants and 86% of flowering plants are endangered. In fact, while China is one of the only countries in the world that is in fact, expanding its forest cover, scientists claim that they are more of a plantation than a real habitat.
In China, there exist two species of animals that are endangered and are drawing attention. They happen to be the Giant Panda, and the Yangtze soft-shelled turtle. The latter, less known, less popular, and less in numbers, is said to be the world's largest freshwater turtles. Unnoticed and unappreciated for years, a female turtle with a strained, leathery shell is now precious in the city of Changsha's decaying zoo. She is fed a diet of special raw meat, her pond in encased in bulletproof glass, a surveillance camera monitors her movements, and a guard is posted there at night. The reason? The turtle must not die. In early 2007, she was determined to be the world's last Yangtze soft-shelled turtle, weighing, at 80 years old, 90 pounds. The planet also had a male of the same species, also living in China. He is 100 years old, weighs about 200 pounds, and lives in a zoo in Suzhou. They are the last chance for the species. In 2008, the female was moved to Suzhou, in a pond neighboring the male's. She laid around 100 eggs, and half appeared to be fertilized, but none hatched, and all the embryos died in early development due to a calcium deficency in the female's diet. (Sorry, I can't find any more information regarding this that is more up to date)
Compared to the United States' pollution, however, the average Chinese person only produces one-third of the pollution the average American makes.