IMPACT OF CHINESE AIR POLLUTION
The engines of Chinese airlines have to be overhauled and replaced more frequently than elsewhere because operating in Chinese air corrodes the turbine blades faster. In Tangshan, a large industrial, coastal city 125 miles east of Beijing, people can tell which way the wind is blowing by what color the smog is. Grayish color smog comes from iron deposits blown from steel mills to the south; whitish smog comes from chemical factories to the east; and black dust comes from the coal and coking plant to the west. Tangshan itself is home to many dirty factories and plants such as Beijing Coking-Chemical Plant and Capital Iron and Steel, both of which were relocated to Tangshan from Beijing to reduce pollution there.
Air pollution is believed to have significantly reduced crop production. Studies based on satellite imagery and ground-based observation suggest that particles of suspended pollutants scatter sun light over two thirds of eastern China resulting in harvests of rice and winter wheat that may be 5 to 30 percent less than if there was no pollution.
Heavy smog forced Chinese teachers to live-stream classes to students ordered to study at home. Over 400 Chinese pupils forced to take exams outdoors after school was shut due to heavy smog. [Source: South China Morning Post, 21 December, 2016]
Health Problems and Air Pollution in China
China has the world highest number of deaths attributed to air pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than a million premature deaths in China each year are caused by air pollution. Some estimates put the toll at up to twice that figure. Respiratory and heart diseases related to air pollution are the leading cause of death in China. Health experts say the inhalation of small particles in people's lungs poses a long-lasting health danger. [Source: Marlowe Hood, AFP, February 25, 2020]
Air pollution causes premature births, low-birth weight babies, and depresses lungs functioning in otherwise healthy people. It has also been blamed for China's rising rates of cancer. Lung cancer is now the leading cause of death in China. Between 2005 and 2010 the number of deaths from the disease rose 18.5 percent to 34 per 100,000 people. Air pollution is also linked with a variety of respiratory aliments. Around some factories the asthma rate is 5 percent. It is estimated that 26 percent of all deaths in China are caused by respiratory illnesses (compared with 2 or 3 percent in the U.S.). Many people in Beijing and Shanghai get hacking coughs. In rural areas, respiratory disease is the number one killer. It is impossible to say how many are caused by air pollution though and how many are caused by smoking or some other cause.
The consequences of air pollution might not manifest themselves for years or even decades. The risks can magnified for young children. According to Chinese government statistics 300,000 died each year from ambient air pollution in the mid 2000s, mostly from heart disease and lung cancer. An additional 110,000 died from illnesses related to indoor pollution from poorly ventilated wood and coal stoves and toxic fumes from shoddy construction material. The fine particles produced by coal-fired stoves exacerbates respiratory problems and is especially damaging to children’s lungs functions.
Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a nongovernmental organization, told the New York Times : “There are figures of premature deaths caused by air pollution. Some studies say about a million a year, and others say 300,000 to 500,000 a year. There isn’t much research on the relation between air pollution and lung cancer in China, and even less with accessible research results. It’s sensitive. The government does not want to cause panic among the public. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, December 16, 2016]
In October 2013, the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified air pollution as carcinogenic. It stated that there is "sufficient evidence" that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer and also linked it with an increased risk of bladder cancer. It said that exposure has increased significantly particularly in "rapidly industrial countries with large populations" such as China. "The air we breath has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances", Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Section said "We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths." [Source: Jennifer Duggan, The Guardian, October 23, 2013]
Air Pollution Linked to 1.2 Million Premature Deaths in China
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide. Figured another way, the researchers said, China’s toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population. The data on which the analysis is based was first presented in the ambitious 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, which was published in December 2012 in The Lancet, a British medical journal.[Source: Edward Wong. New York Times, April 1, 2013]
“What the researchers called “ambient particulate matter pollution” was the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths in China in 2010, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure and smoking. Air pollution ranked seventh on the worldwide list of risk factors, contributing to 3.2 million deaths in 2010. By comparison with China, India, which also has densely populated cities grappling with similar levels of pollution, had 620,000 premature deaths in 2010 because of outdoor air pollution, the study found. That was deemed to be the sixth most common killer in South Asia. The study was led by an institute at the University of Washington and several partner universities and institutions, including the World Health Organization.
“Calculations of premature deaths because of outdoor air pollution are politically threatening in the eyes of some Chinese officials. According to news reports, Chinese officials cut out sections of a 2007 report called “Cost of Pollution in China” that discussed premature deaths. The report’s authors had concluded that 350,000 to 400,000 people die prematurely in China each year because of outdoor air pollution. The study was done by the World Bank in cooperation with the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration, the precursor to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Some Chinese officials have sought to quash reports that link premature deaths to pollution. According to news reports, Chinese officials excised parts of a 2007 report called “Cost of Pollution in China” that had concluded that 350,000 to 400,000 people die prematurely in China each year because of outdoor air pollution. The study was done by the World Bank with the help of the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration, the precursor to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Lung Cancer and Air Pollution in China
Lung cancer is the leading form of cancer in China. While smoking, especially among men, is a prime culprit, the contribution of PM2.5, the dangerous fine particles suspended in smog, can not be ignored. “PM2.5 was declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization as early as 2013,” Dr. Zhao Xiaogang, deputy chief of thoracic surgery at Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital of Tongji University, told the New York Times. “No matter how developed the medical technology is, if people are exposed to smog, especially severe smog, they are at risk.” Global Times quoted him as making a direct link. “The intense rise in lung cancer,” he said, “is intimately related to smog.”[Source: Karoline Kan, Sinosphere, New York Times, January 6, 2017]
“Dr. Zhao said that in his surgical practice he has noticed more and more nonsmokers who have developed lung cancer. ““As a thoracic surgeon, I have diagnosed many patients with ground-glass opacity adenocarcinoma in my regular clinical practice,” he told the New York Times, referring to tumors. “Most of the female lung cancer patients are nonsmokers,” he said. “Some are little girls. I even had a 9-year-old patient, a little girl, and we had to cut out part of her lung. I’ll never forget her.”
In December 2011, China's state media reported. that air pollution is likely a main culprit for the almost 60 percent growth in lung cancer rates in Beijing during the 2000s. "Increasing air pollution might be largely blamed" for the big rise, even though the smoking rate during the period has not seen an apparent increase, Zhi Xiuyi, the head of Capital Medical University's lung cancer center, told the China Daily. The China Daily cited figures released by the Beijing Institute for Cancer Research as showing that between 2000 and 2009, instances of lung cancer in the capital rose 56 percent. [Source: Kyodo, December 6, 2011]
Coal-Related Air Pollution Linked to Lung Cancer
Nonsmoking women in an area of China’s Yunnan province die of lung cancer at a rate 20 times that of their counterparts in other regions of the country — and higher than anywhere else in the world. In a January 2010 article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology group of scientists said they had come up with a possible explanation why: the burning of coal formed during volcanic eruptions hundreds of millions of years ago. [Source: Sindya N. Bhanoo, New York Times, January 11, 2010]
Coal in Yunnan’s Xuanwei County, where the problem exists, contains high concentrations of silica, a suspected carcinogen. There is more silica in this coal than in 99.9 percent of all the samples we analyzed, said an author of the study, Robert B. Finkelman, a professor of geology at the University of Texas at Dallas. Like others in rural China, the families of Xuanwei County use coal for heat and for cooking. As the coal burns, particles of silica are released with the vapor and inhaled. Women, who do the cooking, face the greatest exposure.
Dr. Finkelman and his colleagues found that quartz, of which silica is the primary component, made up 13.5 percent of the coal samples taken from Xuanwei County. In normal coal samples, quartz and other minerals are found only in trace amounts. The grains of quartz were so small they were only visible through an electron microscope, Dr. Finkelman said. Strikingly, the coal found in neighboring villages did not contain quartz at the same high levels or with such fine grain.
When the volcanic eruptions occurred 250 million years ago, they set off a mass extinction and released acid gases, leading to a variety of changes in the earth’s environment, including acid rain. Dr. Finkelman speculated that the rain might have dissolved surface rocks composed of silica, which then might have worked its way into developing formations of coal.
The high cancer rates in Xuanwei have attracted the attention of scientists for decades. Dr. Qing Lan, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., is completing two studies involving hundreds of women and families there. While her team is confident that coal burning is causing the high rates of cancer, they are not certain it is due to silica.
China Study Blames Indoor Burning for Lung Ailment
In February 2009, Reuters reported: “A study of more than 20,000 people in China has shown that exposure to burning solid fuel indoors for heat and cooking may cause the lung ailment known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The finding, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is significant because COPD has long been associated with smoking and very little research has been done to find out why non-smokers also suffer from the disease. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Emphysema is the loss of elasticity of lung tissues, resulting in the collapse of small airways which gives rise to shortness of breath and hyperventilation. [Source: Reuters, February 18, 2009 |:|]
“The study covered 20,245 people over 40 years of age in seven Chinese cities and provinces who were interviewed about their smoking habits, family health history and exposure to smoke from solid fuels, such as wood, coal, grass and dung. Among the participants, 12,471 were non-smokers and 5.2 percent of them were diagnosed as suffering from COPD, wrote the researchers, led by Pixin Ran at the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease in China's southern Guangzhou city. |:|
“After adjusting for other possible causes, including passive smoking, the Chinese researchers found that exposure to various types of smoke in the home, such as that produced by burning coal and biomass, was the leading cause of COPD in non-smokers. Around 73 percent had been exposed for at least a year to burning fuel indoors for the purpose of heating or cooking. In four out of 10 cases, kitchen ventilation was poor and both men and women were harmed, they added. |:|
“Nearly four-fifths of the non-smokers, or 78 percent, were also found to have lived with tobacco fumes. It is well known that children of smoking parents are more likely to suffer from respiratory disease as adults and the researchers said the problem will be more acute in China, where nearly 40 percent of adults smoke. "Our results can probably be applied to other developing countries, such as India and Nepal, which have a similar indoor pollution problem", wrote the researchers. They hoped a substantial number of COPD cases could be avoided through health education, better ventilation in kitchens and getting people to quit smoking. |:|
Dealing with the Health Consequences of Air Pollution in China
According to Xinhua, medical experts warned that there will be an increase in the number of people needing treatment after the high levels in Harbin. "The impact of air pollution on people will be gradual. There won't be a sudden outbreak of symptoms, but normally three to five days after the smoggy weather occurs, there is a peak in the number of people seeing doctors," Deng Ying, a doctor at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University was quoted as saying. Earlier it was announced that cancer is the leading cause of death in the capital Beijing. While in Shanghai it was reported that the number of cases of tumors had risen. According to figures from the Health and Family Planning Commission 36,000 people in the city die of cancer a year. [Source: Jennifer Duggan, The Guardian, October 23, 2013]
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Residents in the capital have taken to mocking their famously filthy air and its attendant health hazards with the expression "Beijing cough." Meanwhile, Shanghai's Environmental Protection Bureau has introduced a cartoon mascot to communicate daily air quality on its website: a pig-tailed girl who bursts into tears when smog reaches hazardous levels. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2013 ]
“Beijing resident Zhang Jian takes his 2-year-old son to a doctor regularly to treat the toddler's chronic sinus infection. "It's definitely related to the pollution," said Zhang, 35, who wore a disposable mask at an overcrowded children's hospital recently. "My son snores and his nose is blocked constantly. It's a problem because he's too young to clear his nose like adults." The doctor's visit and treatment cost Zhang about $320 — nearly a week's pay for the IT professional.
During the period of heavy smog in Beijing in January 2013 Bloomberg reported that the head of cardiology at a Beijing hospital said that the number of people coming into emergency rooms with heart attacks doubled. In November 2013 the New York Times reported that an official Chinese news report said an 8-year-old girl near Shanghai was hospitalized with lung cancer, the youngest such victim in China. Her doctor blamed air pollution.
International schools in Beijing have domed their athletic fields because pollution so often requires that students stay indoors. Washington Post writer John Pomfret was based in Beijing for many years. When his family moved to Los Angeles afterwards his son’s asthma attacks and chronic chest infections stopped. When asked why he moved to Los Angeles he jokingly said “for the air.”
Impact of Air Pollution on the Chinese Economy
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “When a thick quilt of smog enveloped swaths of China in January 2013 , it set in motion a costly chain reaction for the world's No. 2 economy. Authorities canceled flights across northern China and ordered some factories shut. Hospitals were flooded with hacking patients.A fire in an empty furniture factory in eastern Zhejiang province went undetected for hours because the smoke was indistinguishable from the haze. In coastal Shandong province, most highways were closed for fear that low visibility would cause motorists to crash. And in Beijing, the local government urged residents to remain indoors and told construction sites to scale back activity. "These are emergency measures that have the same economic impact as a strike or severe weather," said Louis Kuijs, a Hong Kong-based economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland and formerly of the World Bank. "They're very painful." [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2013 ^*^]
“As air pollution continues to obscure China's cities, the cost to the nation in lost productivity and health problems is soaring. The World Bank estimates sickness and early death sapped China of $100 billion in 2009, or just under 3 percent of gross domestic product. China is now home to seven of the 10 most-polluted cities in the world, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank and Beijing's Tsinghua University. A study by Greenpeace and Peking University's School of Public Health put the cost of healthcare to treat pollution-related ailments in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian at more than $1 billion last year. ^*^
“China's economy has grown 30-fold since 1989, becoming the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the process. China has also emerged as the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. The government aims to have renewable energy account for 9.5 percent of all power consumption by 2015. Such is the contradictory nature of China's environmental policy. Plastic shopping bags are being phased out, solar water heaters abound and the country's northern provinces are planting 1.5 million square miles of new trees called the Green Wall of China.At the same time, China remains highly dependent on coal to fuel its power plants. The dirty fossil fuel accounts for about 70 percent of China's energy production. Compounding the problem is the nation's new love affair with the automobile. Nearly 20 million vehicles were sold here last year, more than anywhere else in the world. ^*^
Impact of Air Pollution on China’s Agriculture Compared to Nuclear Winter
In the village of Wushizhuang, near the Zhengda steel works, locals have been up in arms about the pollution that was harming their lungs and ruining their crops — even though many had relatives employed in the surrounding factories. One man told the Washington Post the apples and pears in his orchard grew so black with grime that they could never be sold, while another wiped thick black dust off a car that he said had been washed the day before. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 2, 2014]
In 2014, Chinese scientists warned that the country's toxic air pollution is so bad that it resembles a nuclear winter, slowing photosynthesis in plants — and potentially harming agriculture and harming the country's food supply. The Guardian reported: “He Dongxian, an associate professor at China Agricultural University's College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering, said new research suggested that if the smog persists, Chinese agriculture will suffer conditions "somewhat similar to a nuclear winter". She has demonstrated that air pollutants adhere to greenhouse surfaces, cutting the amount of light inside by about 50 percent and severely impeding photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light into life-sustaining chemical energy. [Source: Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing, The Guardian, February 25, 2014]
“She tested the hypothesis by growing one group of chilli and tomato seeds under artificial lab light, and another under a suburban Beijing greenhouse. In the lab, the seeds sprouted in 20 days; in the greenhouse, they took more than two months. "They will be lucky to live at all," He told the South China Morning Post newspaper. She warned that if smoggy conditions persist, the country's agricultural production could be seriously affected. "Now almost every farm is caught in a smog panic," she said.
Chinese Pilots Ordered Master Low-Visibility Landings
In December 2013, in the midst of some of the worst smog ever in Beijing, Chinese aviation authorities told captains of domestic flights into Beijing to master low-visibility landings to combat chronic flight delays associated with the heavy smog. Associated Press reported: “Beijing Capital International Airport, China's busiest, has the worst record for flight delays of any major international airport, with only 18 percent of flights departing on time, according to travel industry monitor FlightStats. Thick smog has canceled or delayed flights at the Beijing airport when the city's visibility goes down to a few hundred meters (yards) — though officials typically blame the delays on weather conditions rather than pollution. [Source: Didi Tang, Associated Press, December 12, 2013]
“The new requirement went into effect in January 2013. An official at the Civil Aviation Administration of China said he new skills would be required of all captains on Beijing-bound flights from China's other major airports, including those in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzhen. The captains will have to learn to land their aircraft with the assistance of precision auto-landing equipment when visibility falls to 400 meters (1,315 feet). Currently, planes are diverted to other airports when visibility is that low. "The administration is promoting the technology to reduce the impact on flights by severe natural conditions," the aviation official said, adding that it will be up to the airlines to decide whether to use auto-landing in low visibility.
“Auto-landing allows a plane to land automatically with the supervision of a human crew. Experts say that the technology improves aviation safety, but that it requires additional pilot training to supervise the precision hardware both onboard and on the ground. The system is geared for three levels of visibility: 800 meters (half a mile), 400 meters and zero visibility.
“Chinese airlines also have fleets of aircraft capable of auto-landing. But aviation authorities previously did not require Chinese pilots to be trained for low-visibility auto-landing because of hefty training costs, said Shu Ping, dean of aviation safety at China Academy of Civil Aviation Science and Technology. "The training is very expensive, and the low visibility was not a normal condition," Shu said. "Now with more smoggy days, the probability of landing with low visibility is higher."
“The Beijing airport's chronic delays are due to an assortment of factors, including a narrow air corridor for commercial aviation because of the powerful military's tight control over airspace. China's wide-ranging weather patterns — including fog, snow and sandstorms — also play a role, as does Beijing's severe pollution. An annual report says weather conditions caused more than 20 percent of the flight delays last year in China, though it does not elaborate on how many were attributed to air pollution.
Smog Makes Beijing's Massive Surveillance Network Practically Useless
Mike Riggs wrote on The Atlantic online, “Beijing's surveillance network, one of the most extensive and invasive in the world, has been compromised by an unexpected foe: smog. The South China Morning Post reports that intense pollution in Beijing has reduced visibility to such an extent that "no surveillance camera can see through the thick layers of particles." The problem is so serious that National Natural Science Foundation of China has commissioned two groups, one made up of civilians and the other military, to spend four years researching surveillance technology that can see through smog. A contingency solution? Radar. It might cause health problems, but it could penetrate smog particles that "are so many and so solid, they block light almost as effectively as a brick wall." [Source: Mike Riggs, The Atlantic online, November 5, 2013]
“While the inability to use surveillance cameras could have an impact on crime control, it's also a temporary boon to China's civil liberties advocates and other dissidents. Since launching its "Skynet" surveillance program in 2005, China has bedecked the country with 20 to 30 million security cameras, placing them in taxi cabs, along streets, and inside classrooms, movie theaters, and private buildings. While private parties also buy and use surveillance systems, the Chinese government makes 70 percent of surveillance system purchases.
China's obsession with surveilling every corner of the country led it to spend $16 billion on video surveillance between 2009-2011. With more than 800,000 of those cameras in Beijing, that city now surpasses London as the most surveilled metropolis on the planet.
Smog Worries Boost Air Purifiers Sales in China
Shi Jing wrote in the China Daily, “Online sales of air purifiers are soaring as smog continues to take its toll on air quality. Sales of purifiers at Suning.com, a leading e-commerce company, rose by about 70 percent month-on-month, according to Chen Gongjing, the company's marketing manager."As the yellow alert for smog was issued late on Tuesday morning in Beijing, it will take the market some while to react," Chen said. "There was a huge increase in sales and searches for air purifiers on our website, but not as high as the last time heavy smog swept large parts of central and eastern parts of the country, in the middle of this month." [Source: Shi Jing, China Daily, January 30, 2013]
The page view for air purifiers on leading e-commerce company Gome.com.cn reached 340 in Beijing on Tuesday, three times the number for an average day, said Gome spokesman Peng Liang. Peng said the seven-day Spring Festival holiday will not seriously affect deliveries. For most first-tier cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, delivery of most products, including air purifiers, will not be affected because there are sufficient supplies.
According to statistics provided by Taobao, a major online shopping website, its search rate for air purifiers this week is down 21.3 percent on levels recorded seven days ago. But the number has risen by 293.7 percent year-on-year. Since the smog started to spread in most parts of the country in mid-January, sales of air purifiers on 360buy.com, another major online shopping site, have grown by 600 percent on average. Sales of air purifiers have been more than 600 million yuan ($96.3 million) since the start of this year, the company said.
Michiyo Nakamoto wrote in the Financial Times, “Even as Japanese officials wring their hands about the harmful effects of China’s air pollution drifting over to Japan, Japanese white goods manufacturers are finding the problem has a welcome silver lining. Sales of air purifiers made by Daikin, Panasonic and Sharp have shot up in China amid mounting concerns about air pollution over the past few months.Sharp said sales of its air purifiers in China tripled last month compared with a year earlier, while Panasonic sold more than twice as many air purifiers in China in January. Daikin, a leading maker of air-conditioners, also saw sales of its air purifiers in China rise 3.6 times year on year in January. [Source: Michiyo Nakamoto, Financial Times, February 15, 2013 =/=]
“We believe the impact of the air pollution problem in China on sales of our air purifiers is huge. We expect sales to continue increasing until May or June,” said a Panasonic representative. The group is ramping up production by 50 per cent. Demand for air purifiers made by Japanese manufacturers had already been on the rise in China, due to increasing awareness of health and environmental issues, a Sharp representative said. In 2012, sales of Sharp’s air purifiers doubled from the level a year ago, Sharp said. Sharp’s air purifiers have received certification from a Chinese-government linked organisation that they filter out 99.5 per cent of PM2.5, the small particulate matter that is at the centre of the pollution scare. Air purifiers are a key product for Sharp in China, comprising 30 per cent of the group’s white goods sales in that market, Sharp said. =/=
Chinese Urbanites Flee Smog
Reporting from Dali, Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, A typical morning for Lin Liya, a native of Shanghai transplanted to this ancient town in southwest China, goes like this: See her 3-year-old son off to school near the mountains; go for a half-hour run on the shores of Erhai Lake; and browse the local market for fresh vegetables and meat. She finished her run one morning beneath cloudless blue skies and sat down with a visitor from Beijing in the lakeside boutique hotel started by her and her husband. “I think luxury is sunshine, good air and good water,” she said. “But in the big city, you can’t get those things.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, November 22, 2013 ^+^]
“More than two years ago, Ms. Lin, 34, and her husband gave up comfortable careers in the booming southern city of Guangzhou — she at a Norwegian risk management company, he at an advertising firm that he had founded — to join the growing number of urbanites who have decamped to rural China. One resident here calls them “environmental refugees” or “environmental immigrants.” ^+^
“At a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese, many poor farmers, are leaving their country homesteads to find work and tap into the energy of China’s dynamic cities, a small number of urban dwellers have decided to make a reverse migration. Their change in lifestyle speaks volumes about anxieties over pollution, traffic, living costs, property values and the general stress found in China’s biggest coastal metropolises. ^+^
“The urban refugees come from all walks of life — businesspeople and artists, teachers and chefs — though there is no reliable estimate of their numbers. They have staked out greener lives in small enclaves, from central Anhui Province to remote Tibet. Many are Chinese bobos, or bourgeois bohemians, and they say that besides escaping pollution and filth, they want to be unshackled from the material drives of the cities — what Ms. Lin derided as a focus on “what you’re wearing, where you’re eating, comparing yourself with others.” ^+^
Expats Flee Beijing Air Pollution
In 2014, the New York Times reported: Foreign workers in Beijing are becoming much less willing to tolerate the toxic air. That was reflected in an annual survey released in March 2014 by the American Chamber of Commerce . Almost half of the 365 companies in the survey, most of them in the Beijing area, said they had problems recruiting or retaining senior executives because of the poor air. That figure was only 19 percent in the chamber’s 2008 survey. As a result, some companies are now offering bonuses or higher salaries to fill openings in China, which foreign workers are calling pollution pay — and a few are even announcing the policy publicly, as Panasonic, the electronics maker, did in mid-March. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, March 27, 2014]
Don Lee wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “After nearly two decades in Beijing, David Wolf knew it was time for a change when his 11-year-old son, Aaron, somberly asked him, "Dad, when you were growing up, did you ever have PE outdoors?"Wolf had grown up in smog-choked Los Angeles in the 1970s, but even that wasn't nearly as bad as Beijing today. His son, like many young students in the city, has been kept inside for months, with the luckier children getting the chance to exercise under huge air-filtered domes that their international schools have built. [Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2013 =+=]
“No one knows how many have fled or made concrete plans to leave, but expats who have been in China's capital a while seem to know at least a person or two who are getting out, and many more who are talking about it. So far it has been a trickle rather than an exodus. With China's economy still growing much faster than other major economies — and Beijing in many ways at the center of it all — it isn't easy for people, especially executives, to walk away from the opportunities here. =+=
"Residents of China "know there are issues of food quality, air quality, even water and rice quality. This is a given," said Simon Wan, the global head of Cornerstone International Group, a major executive search firm based in Shanghai. "They are taking all kinds of protection," such as wearing surgical masks and buying air filtration equipment. Still, China's poor air is becoming an increasing economic concern, with sickness and stay-indoors alerts cutting into productivity and profits. Given a choice, senior managers are asking to work in Shanghai rather than Beijing, in part because of the difference in air quality. =+=
Calvin Tchiang of the Bay Area and his wife, Melody, who was raised in Taiwan and Los Angeles, moved to Beijing several years ago. Fluent in Chinese, the couple seemed to have everything going for their budding careers. Calvin worked for an investment company developing Chinese partners interested in biotech; Melody had a job as a translator. But life in Beijing began to change about a year ago when they had a baby, Xavier, and the pollution became intolerable. The Tchiangs put three air purifiers in their apartment, one for each room. The machines whirred 24 hours a day. When the PM 2.5 dropped under triple digits, which was rare, they opened the windows and took their baby outside.When they went out, though, the couple wore similar Darth Vader-like respirators, Calvin in black and Melody in red. Melody found herself checking the PM 2.5 reading several times a day. Whenever it hit 300, she would not go out at all. "There were instances when I became a recluse," Melody said. The Tchiangs returned to the U.S. in April, settling near Cincinnati. =+=
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.
Last updated June 2022