China's Emergency Plan for Olympics Pollution

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on July 28, 2008

The clock is ticking, the athletes are arriving, and Beijing’s air isn’t getting any better. For years, Chinese officials have known that the greatest threat to a successful Olympics might not be protests about Tibet or Taiwan or democracy but rather smog engulfing the National Stadium on Opening Day. Still, the government, which has done such a great job getting the different venues ready in time, seems to have dropped the ball when it comes to getting the air ready, too. The city started a plan to reduce pollution last week by limiting the number of cars allowed on the roads. (License plates ending in odd numbers on one day, ending in even numbers on the other day.) So far that hasn’t done much. Reuters reported yesterday on the opening of the Olympic Village in the capital, an event obscured by the pollution that “shrouded [the compound] in pea-soup fog.”

How worried are Chinese officials? Even the state-controlled media aren’t burying the news. Today’s China Daily, the mouthpiece of the government, has a front-page story that departs from its usual upbeat reporting about how well the preparations have been going. The headline: “Emergency green plan for Games.” The paper went on to report that Beijing “has not experienced a ‘blue day,’ that is healthy air quality, in the past four days.” No wonder officials are now talking about draconian measures to keep 90% of Beijing’s cars off the roads.

Meanwhile, here in Hong Kong (home of the equestrian events, as Jackie Chan reminds us), today wasn’t a great day for people with lungs either. A typhoon is hitting Taiwan, and when typhoons are in the neighborhood, for some reason the winds in Hong Kong seem to die and the air gets disgusting. On the other hand, the skies had been gloriously blue for the past few weeks thanks to winds from the south blowing away all the soot from Guangdong. No doubt Beijing residents - not to mention athletes and IOC officials - would gladly take a day or two of Hong Kong typhoon air in exchange for their gray skies.

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Reader Comments

Squeezebox

July 28, 2008 05:05 PM

Maybe once China gets embarrassed by the intractable pollution levels, they'll get serious about the Kyoto accords? If the state was serious about pollution, why didn't they have scrubbers installed on all the municipal smokestacks last year? They have been awash in American money for several years now. They could either buy them from the U.S. or buy the technology and make their own.

Yx

July 28, 2008 09:25 PM

In China most Chinese don't pay any attention to these news report by so called mainstream madias.I am wondering why westers care so much these media?

Rick a hyatt

July 29, 2008 12:46 AM

God Hates the Godless CHICOMS, so they have to live in Hell on Earth. Chinese should get a representative form of government, "In God We Trust" for best results, or else...
BTW, we in the West DON'T pay attention to the Mainstream Media, since we know it's bought out by the CHICOM's with our own American Dollars, so we go on the Internet, instead, anyway. That's why the Great Yahoo! Firewall Management and many of the paper presses have shut down - The CHICOMS can't afford any more to buy enough of their own stacks of paper propaganda to falsify "Profits" for their Rags, any more.
What did they do with all that red ink, anyway, make toilet paper for Hong Kong, or something?

Tom Watkins

July 29, 2008 06:10 AM

If you have traveled in China recently, your burning eyes will testify that, along with their economic boom over the past quarter of a century and double-digit economic increases on an annual basis, economic development has come with a stiff environmental price — polluted air, rivers, streams and lakes.

China's environmental problems are not just limited to their political borders. Air and water pollution do not stop at the artificial political boundaries marked on world maps. When we talk about "China's rise" it is more than just their economic mass, it is also pollution that is rising as well.

Clearly China's economic rise has come with a heavy and choking toll on the environment. The factories that are producing much of what will under your Christmas tree this year are fueled by dirty coal spewing out soot and fouling the air and water. Further complicating the problem is growing auto pollution. It is predicted that the Chinese auto market is expected to surpass the U.S. market in 10 years, and there will be seven times the number of cars on China roadways in 2020 than there were in 2004.

China's energy needs are as great or greater than their environmental needs as they continue to emerge from the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and other ill-gotten national policies that held the sleeping dragon back for much of the 20th Century. The Chinese will need to invest in energy production in an environmentally sensible way. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the Chinese will need to invest nearly $2 trillion in new power plants and transmission by 2030. Will the energy be clean? Can Michigan clean up by helping the Chinese meet these two mounting demands?

Many reports coming out of China point to the fact that Chinese leaders are recognizing the huge problem of pollution and encouraging new green technology to address these issues lest they choke off the economic dragon that is lifting many Chinese out of poverty and providing the stability the Chinese Communist Party will pay any price to maintain.

America remains number one in two categories today: Economic output and the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases. However, according to the International Monetary Fund, by 2040 or sooner, China could surpass us in both categories.

There is an economic doom and gloom hanging in the Michigan air like a smoggy day in Beijing. With the daily barrage of bad news from the auto industry and the continued loss of manufacturing jobs polluting our minds, it is easy to lose the forest for the trees.

Yet, China's problems could and should been seen by entrepreneurs as a great opportunities. China is sitting on an escalating energy and environmental crisis, in addition to as much as $1 trillion of foreign currency, much of U.S. currency, seeking investment opportunities. Can Michigan help build environmentally-friendly power plants, clean the air, help purify the water and put our people to work cleaning China's environment?

American entrepreneurs have a rich history of protecting our drinking water, reclaiming our rivers, streams and lakes while fueling our industrial needs. There is an opportunity for creative people to make "green off of China's dirt!"

How is that for clearing the air with China?

Chandra Williams

July 29, 2008 09:20 AM

I want to respond to the comment by Rick Hyatt. First of all, I don't know why you would drag religion into this matter. They are entirely two separate matters. Second, hostile comments about China and its from of government will not get us anywhere. Countries should be allowed to choose any form of government they want, and who are we to say that democracy is the most superior form of government, when USA (supposedly the symbol for democracy) has problems of her own? I would also like to know where you get the information that China is using USA's money to buy out the media. Don't you know that US has been running a budget deficit for the past few years and foreign governments have been buying US debts in forms of treasurys? Guess which country holds the bulk of these debts? That's right, it's China. I'm not crediting China with its propagandist methods. I do think that its citizens should have access to full transparency from the government. But, your comment about the red ink and making toilet paper for Hong Kong is totally out of the line, unnecessary and inflammatory and I am not even from China. Please be respectful to other people and refrain from such ridiculous comments. Thank you.

Carol Isaac

July 29, 2008 11:29 AM

Shame. Try sharing. Try doing something without simply a profit motive. Try really cleaning up Michigan.

Singha

August 19, 2008 03:50 PM

Some moronic athlete bought into the Beijing pollution scare and look what he did....
http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/bei...ters&type=lgns
Gebrselassie regrets opting out of marathon

Aug 18, 7:25 am EDT

By Vivi Lin

BEIJING, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Marathon world record-holder Haile Gebrselassie regrets pulling out of the 42-km race at the Olympics over fears that Beijing’s air pollution would damage his health.

“I’m surprised. What do you expect from me? I was here in February, I didn’t see no blue sky,” the Ethiopian runner told Reuters on Monday in China’s capital, where the sun was shining in a slightly hazy sky.

“Since I came here everything is perfect. They should tell us,” he added with a laugh.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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