x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Hazy Beijing decisions

In the run-up to the country's Olympic Games in 2008, the central government ordered dozens of factories in the surrounding region to suspend work, so that the smog - which worsens in the summer - would not, literally, overshadow the Games.

The pollution in China's capital city has long been a problem, both for stoic residents and tourists. In the run-up to the country's Olympic Games in 2008, the central government ordered dozens of factories in the surrounding region to suspend work, so that the smog - which worsens in the summer - would not, literally, overshadow the Games.

It worked, but not as a long-term solution. According to a chart compiled this week by Bloomberg, breathing the air in Beijing is worse than living in one of those dedicated smoking rooms that are set aside in airports for inveterate addicts.

Those rooms - full of nervous, puffy, deep-breathing, finger-stained nicotine fiends - average around 166.6 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5, an airborne particle that raises the risk of heart and lung disease. The daily average in Beijing so far this year has been 194.

China's industrial development in the 30 years has been staggering, pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty. The command economy that pulled off such a feat is credited with the recent decades of relative social stability. The cost, however, has been quality of life. The smog requires a new strategy from Beijing: a transparent plan to clear the air.