Nieuws - 3 december 2014

Blog: Blue skies of Beijing

A question lingers on my current stay in Beijing: should I leave? Two voices fight fiercely in my mind: ‘No, because I can’t find such vibrancy elsewhere in China.’ and ‘Yes, I’m fed up with the air pollution.’ But having been suffering from the smog I’m afraid the day of my leaving will come sooner than later.

Last Wednesday evening when I wore a mask and waited at a bus-stop, there were so many smokers passing by that in a few seconds my mask was screwed up by the cigarette smoke. I had no choice but to pull off my mask and exposed myself to the filthy air for more than thirty minutes until the bus finally came.

On the bus I felt more depressed and hopeless when I found the Air Quality Index in my app was already a hazardous 462. A reading above 300 is deemed ‘hazardous’, and all residents are urged to avoid outdoor exercise. ‘Why am I still here?’, I asked myself.  At that moment I really wanted to run away from this city. Later that night the index was even above 500, the top of the scale. Thankfully a sudden stream of cold air blew off the haze next morning and I could finally properly breathe. But we know, sadly, that the worst is yet to come.

‘I hope the APEC blue will remain’, said President Xi. Before the APEC summit he had closed factories, forbidden outdoor bbq’s and slowed down traffic to ensure clean skies for the conference. The buzzword ‘APEC blue’ went viral overnight. Alas the APEC blue seems to remain only as sarcasm for something pretty but temporary.  ‘He’s not that into you, it’s not Beijing smog but APEC blue.’ I appreciate such witty jest, but it looks more like the pathetic helplessness to me.

During the APEC week, we witnessed the effectiveness of the extreme measures. But when the factories resumed manufacturing and the car restriction was lifted, smog swaggered back. When can the Beijingers enjoy a long lasting APEC blue? I don’t know.

Maybe by then I don’t live in Beijing any more.