Controversy over planned paraxylene (PX) plant in Xiamen, Fujian, China

Opposition by scientists and journalists led to a street protest on 1 June, 2007 that was attended by 8000-10,000 local residents. This was one of the first large scale protests against PX plants.


Description

The first PX incident began in the wake of plans by the Xianglu Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co. Ltd. to construct a PX plant in the Haicang District of Xiamen, Fujian. The PX project in Haicang was approved by the State Council in February 2004, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) passed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report in 2005, and the State Department and Reform Committee approved the application in July 2006 (Zhu 2007).

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Basic Data
NameControversy over planned paraxylene (PX) plant in Xiamen, Fujian, China
CountryChina
ProvinceFujian
SiteHaicang
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Urban development conflicts
Chemical industries
Specific CommoditiesParaxylene
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsParaxylene (PX) is a chemical essential to the process of manufacturing plastic bottles and polyester clothing which is dangerous if inhaled or if absorbed through skin. China is the world’s largest PX producer and consumer as of 2010. Safety concerns over PX factories have prompted environmental protests in China. This case was one of the first ones, influential on other protests.
Level of Investment (in USD)1,400,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population100,000 (population of Haicang, Xiamen)
Start Date16/03/2007
End Date02/06/2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesHaicang Land Development Corporation from China - It began land requisition for the Xiamen PX project in August 2006.
Xianglu Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co. Ltd. (Tenglong Group ) from China - The Xiamen PX project was planned by the Tenglong Group.
Relevant government actorsThe State Council, the State Land Resources Department, the State Development and Reform Committee, The State Environmental Protection Administration (Deputy Director, Pan Yue), the Executive Vice-Mayor of Xianmen City, Ding Guoyan
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Xiamen Greencross Association, http://xmls.xingongyi.org/

-Zhao Yufen, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Xiamen University and member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)

-Zhong Xiaoyong, commentator for newspapers and magazines
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Netizens
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Air pollution, Fires, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
OtherThe Xiamen PX plant which was relocated to Zhangzhou, Fujianm in January 2009 as a result of the Haicang protests exploded after hydrogen leaked from a pipeline's welding seam during a pressure test at the plant. A Xingzai village resident, who lives less than 1 kilometre from the plant, said the concussive force of the explosion shattered windows and cracked walls and ceilings in her newly built home. (Li Jing, South China Morning Post, 30 July 2013)
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
Other"The main effect of inhaling xylene vapor is depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, which can occur with exposure up to air levels of about 100 ppm. [...] Long term exposure can lead to depression, insomnia, agitation, extreme tiredness, tremors, impaired concentration and short-term memory. [...] At very high levels of exposure, xylene can injure the liver and kidneys, with the damage being irreversible. [...] Xylene inhaled by a woman can reach a developing fetus and can contaminate her breast milk" (Kandyala et al. 2010).
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseApplication of existing regulations
Relocation of PX plant from Xiamen to Zhangzhou in 2008 (operation was temporarily halted but has since resumed)
Development of AlternativesRelocation of plant to Zhangzhou, Fujian. This relocation was also conflictive.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Xiamen PX protest appears to be a classic case of NIMBYISM. Local residents in Haicang were able to stage a successful mass protest to halt the PX plant's construction efforts, yet these efforts have simply resulted in the plant being relocated to Zhangzhou, Fujian, where local residents remain vulnerable to environmental and health risks posed by the plant's continual operation, as evidenced by the explosion that occurred at the plant on 29 July 2013 (Li Jing, South China Morning Post, 30 July 2013).
Sources and Materials
References

[5] Ansfield, J. (2013). Alchemy of a protest: The case of Xiamen PX. In S. Geall (Ed.), China and the Environment: The green revolution (pp.136-202). London: Zed Books.

[6] Yu, Y., & Zheng, F. (2010). Digital power: Public participation in an environmental controversy. In J. J. Kassiola & S. Guo (Eds.), China's environmental crisis: Domestic and global political impacts and responses (pp.123-151). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

[7] H. Christoph Steinhardt and Fengshi Wu, "In the Name of the Public: Environmental Protest and the Changing Landscape of Popular Contention in China," The China Journal, no. 75 (January 2016): -.

DOI: 10.1086/684010

Links

[4] Relocated PX project suspended in Zhangzhou
[click to view]

[2] Explosion Rocks PX Factory in Fujian
[click to view]

[3] Overview of PX protests across China
[click to view]

[1] Suspended Xiamen PX project may restart in Zhangzhou
[click to view]

Other Documents

"To protect our health, to protect the environment: no PX in Xiamen"
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorOxford EJOLT team at Human Geography of China, University of Oxford, UK
Last update19/04/2017
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