China Business

Pollution in China’s Cities: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Feng Shui Factor, and What’s Wrong with Yantai?

Yantai China for business

China Environmental Law Blog just did a post, entitled, China’s Blacklisted Cities, [link no longer exists] on a recently released environmental report from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. The report calls out the following cities for their pollution problems:

Bad Air:

  • Bayannur and Ulanqab, Inner Mongolia
  • Baiyin, Gansu
  • Urumqi, Xinjiang
  • Huanggang, Hubei

Bad Water:

  • Hengshui and Cangzhou, Hebei
  • Linfen, Shanxi
  • Fuyang, Anhui
  • Tongchuan, Shaanxi
  • Wuwei, Gansu

The report lists the following cities as having the highest “satisfaction rate” (greater than 90%) in terms of pollution:

  • Linyi, Dongying, Rizhao and Yantai, all in Shandong Province
  • Daqing, and Heihe, both in Heilongjiang Province

My law firm has a good client in Yantai and so I have been there a few times and I have to say it is one of my favorite Chinese cities. It has great buildings, great waterfront views, great weather, great beer and great apples, and what has always struck me as clean air. On top of that, our law firm’s experience has been that its local government is supportive of foreign business. I have often wondered why then it seems so far off the radar of Western businesses looking to China.

I have asked many people this question, and I have received the following answers:

  •  bad history
  • “not Han enough”
  •  too small
  •  too remote
  • bad Feng Shui. The city is sited wrong in terms of the water. it gives me the heebie-jeebies.”

So why have foreign companies not flocked to Yantai?

8 responses to “Pollution in China’s Cities: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Feng Shui Factor, and What’s Wrong with Yantai?”

  1. Situated between Dalian and Qingdao it’s certainly got the good air and good water vibe, plus a decently educated population.
    It’s just tiny. Far from a 2nd tier city but this place is leading the league table in 4th tier cities despite a numerous very large amount of dodgy real estate development a couple of years back.
    It is small town, sometimes county-level appointed hicks running business in a smaller town is not good news, I do hope Yantai is over it.
    Looking at leading indicators I’d suggest it is.

  2. The wording suggests Yantai is pretty clean. So lack of good infrastructure and local officials that give foreigners the jitters may be the reason why no one has “flocked” there. No doubt seasoned foreigners in China have learned to trust their gut feeling when talking to local officials.

  3. Yantai struck me as a great place for retirees, but your average foreign investors might not be so crazy about it. But “bad history” and “not Han enough”? That’s just odd.

  4. Dan: It’s always encouraging to learn that the results of surveys like this actually bear some resemblance to reality. Yantai sounds like a great place, and Adam Minter notes that one of the other Shandong “high satisfiers,” Linyi, has “been a laboratory for the development of recycling and solid waste methods for several years now. In a decade, when people think of ‘e-scrap’ and ‘China,’ they won’t be thinking of the environmental catastrophe in Guiyu, they’ll be thinking about the innovations and partnerships in Linyi.” Shandong Province is doing something right to encourage these kinds of environmental stand outs.

  5. Looking at our own figures, Yantai scores impressively on things like openness to foreign trade and FDI, and in GDP per head. But as people have said, it’s very small in terms of overall GDP and is still pretty underdeveloped. To go into depth on that last one: it’s got a high proportion of agricultural output in GDP and low proportion for services; the number of retail/catering and bank outlets per head is also low. Meanwhile, it’s got a very poor level of internet and water/gas infrastructure going by official data. It’s showing on things like education spending and higher education is also well below average.
    Clearly a lot of these things are changing rapidly, but I’d guess that the above are factors in its below-radar presence at the moment…

  6. The “not Han enough” could be because Yantai has an unbelievably large Korean population, rumor is its around 30%, but not sure of the accuracy of that.
    Why does nobody go to Yantai? It’s not attractive to Western businessmen. There is very little community for them and on top of that, if you need quality employees, you aren’t going to attract top Chinese (or even foreigners) graduates to Yantai, no matter how much you offer. There are so many better choices that are underutilized (just look at Qingdao and Dalian), Yantai isn’t (and won’t) even be on the map.

  7. When I was working in Fuzhou it became clear that going from 1st tier to 2nd tier cities it becomes vastly more difficult for Western firms to do business. The labor pool is much shallower, the local government is not as friendly to foreign firms, and logistics are an order of magnitude more difficult.
    I’m not saying it can’t be done in a place like Yantai. To succeed a western firm would have to go in with eyes wide open and accepting of the challenge.

  8. About Yantai: 1) bad history? I don’t think so. Yantai has more than 100 Fortune 500 investment projects. I have never heard about their complaining about the “bad history”
    2) not han enough. Seriously? yantai is an ancient chinese city dating back to 1000 years ago. 3)too small, I agree with that, it’s small ,yet it has good infrastructure and open mind. 4) too remote. Come on, man, we’re living in a global village, in yanti you can get in touch easily with the rest of the world. 5)Feng Shui?Yantai and its people are blessed and we enjoy good weather and fresh food, never hit by earthquake and other natural disasters.

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