There is a growing concern with regard to sustainability in emerging economies like China. The Chinese growth is characterized by a strategy which is known as "pollute first, clean up later". Here we show that based on this strategy, the pollution alarm can often be postponed by a tremendous economic growth that can potentially improve welfare and educational systems. The welfare and educated societies will be aware and rich enough not only to clean up but also to prevent the environmental pollutions. It underlines that a certain threshold of development should first be reached before a society is capable of understanding the adverse effects of large scale pollution. For this purpose, we need to encourage the use of fossil fuels in the first place. The challenge however remains to make sure whether such a strategy can develop in a sustainable way. (C) 2011 Published by Elsevier B.V.