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Vehicles head to and from central Beijing on a bad air day - 

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Steve Chiotakis: China has enjoyed strong growth over the past few years, even with a lot of other countries in recession. But there's a negative side to all that: its air quality has suffered. A government report out this week shows more than a hundred Chinese cities had the worst pollution levels in five years. Marketplace's China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz reports.


Rob Schmitz: Beijing's Ministry of Environmental Protection blamed sandstorms for some of this year's poor air quality. But scientists, environmentalists and most others placed the blame elsewhere, like on these things:

[Sound of cars driving]

China's roads are more clogged than ever thanks to a surge in vehicle ownership and a growing consumer class. Greenpeace's spokesman Sze Pang Cheung blames another culprit: the economy.

Sze Pang Cheung: A huge part of the Chinese economic stimulus plan goes to, the money goes to infrastructure projects. And with that you're going to need more materials, like cement, like steel.

By 2020, China plans to use clean energy to generate more than a third of its power. That's an impressive statistic, but it's balanced by equally impressive energy demands from the country's economic strength. One indicator of that came earlier this month, when the International Energy Agency reported that China has surpassed the U.S. to become the world's biggest energy consumer.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz