China, Pollution and Cancer Villages

China's top Internet entrepreneur Ma Yun has warned that no amount of money can protect the rich from China's cancer-causing pollution. His comments resonated with web users, many of whom are already alarmed by the country's toxic combination of air and water contamination and food safety issues.

During the 13th annual meeting of the Yabuli China Entrepreneurs Forum, the founder and CEO of leading Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, bypassed business opportunities to address China's pollution-linked health problems in his speech. He predicted [zh] that cancer will trouble every Chinese family in 10 years.

He also stressed that citizens should be more environmentally aware and should not rely on the government only:

On Sina Weibo, Global Times shared news about the map of China’s “cancer villages”.

On Sina Weibo, Global Times shared a map of China’s “cancer villages”.


Thirty years ago, how many people knew somebody with cancer? Cancer was a rare word. Now it has become a common disease. Liver cancer may have something to do with [the polluted] water; lung cancer has something to do with our air; gastric cancer has something to do with our food. The privileged class has clean water, but they can’t order clean air. I worry that we work so hard, and finally all we earn goes toward medical expenses. No matter how much money you make, if you can’t enjoy the sunshine, it is really just a tragedy.

His speech, shared [zh] on popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo by Caijing News the day after, made waves among netizens, triggering over 99,136 reposts and 16,676 comments.

One Weibo user “绿色传承生命 commented [zh]:


We don’t need 10 years; at the moment, there are many “cancer villages”. The smog in Beijing is making cancer rates increase by 67 percent. Pollution is a far greater disaster than we predicted.

Another user “高歌一曲abc” wrote [zh]:


That’s why we choose to go visit our daughter [abroad] every year. We hope every year we get the chance to eat quality food for a change, and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine, so that we can be a bit healthier and live longer.

Ma’s comment about China's cancer problem is no exaggeration. On Sina Weibo, even communist party mouthpiece Global Times shared [zh] a horrific map of China’s “cancer villages” on the same day as Ma Yun's speech:

据京华时报,不久前,环保部印发了《化学品环境风险防控“十二五”规划》,其中明确表示,因受有毒化学品污染,个别地区出现“癌症村”等严重的健康和社会问题。而据媒体人@邓飞 ,这些严重化学污染下所出现的”癌症村”,正在从中东部个别地区,向中西部转移。

According to the Beijing Times, the Ministry of Environmental Protection recently published the “12th Five-Year Plan for Prevention and Control of Environmental Risks from Chemicals”, which clearly stated that due to chemical poisoning, “cancer villages” and other serious health problems have begun to emerge in some areas. According to journalist Deng Fei, these “cancer villages” are spreading from central Eastern China to central Western China.

On February 23, Youth Times also shared [zh] a similar map, detailing the high frequency of different cancers in different areas of China.

According to the map, eastern Chinese cities like Shanghai have a high frequency of gastric cancer, while the southeast has a high frequency of liver cancer. Moreover, six people are diagnosed with cancer and five people die from cancer every five minutes in China. According to the news, the high frequency of cancer has a lot to do with an unhealthy lifestyle, with the environment being one of the biggest threats to health.


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