Blue Sky Day

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To be fair to Beijing–and to disspell any notion that we live in a permanent cloud of coal dust and carbon monoxide–I am posting another view out of the Bureau window, this time on a beautiful, clear day. Although it is largely the result of a couple of gusty days that have swept the skies clear, it is worth noting that on days like this Beijing has an Air Pollution Index of around 50, a little highish but definitely acceptable. In contrast, in the earlier picture I posted the index stood at 322, which considering that it maxes out at 500 is pretty frightening children aren’t allowed out to play). The Environmental Protection Admin. says it wants to hit 245 days this year below 100, which would be nice. There’s also the small matter of the Olympics next year. During the last big conference held here in October (the China Africa Summit), the government basically ordered around a million cars off the road. The index plunged but shot up again as soon as the captains and kings had departed. It remains something of a mystery why Beijing does not control the number of cars flooding onto its streets as do cities like Shanghai. With 1000 new cars a day joining the nearly 2.8 million already clogging Beijing’s streets, it seems certain the capital’s Communist Party cadres will have to order draconian measures right up to stopping traffic altogether for the parts of the 17 day duration of the Games. That’ll work for a short while but at some point, someone in the government is going to have to face up to the need to control new car purchases, not just in Beijing but all over the country. If every Chinese archives the American dream of two cars –and they show every sign of wanting to do so–the entire planet will look like Beijing on a bad day. A really bad day.

Simon Elegant

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