The Beijing government put in place emergency measures on Wednesday to try to combat thick smog that has encased the city, which the Communist Party has hailed as a showcase capital, in brown and gray soot. The measures include temporarily shutting down more than 100 factories and ordering one-third of government vehicles off the streets, according to official news reports. [. . .]Beijing sits in the middle of an industrial belt of coal-burning factories, and there is little incentive for officials or executives to slow down work there…The United States Energy Information Administration released a report on Tuesday that said China now accounts for 47 percent of global coal consumption, almost equal to all other countries in the world combined.
Our intrepid reader described the smell as oily, sticky, and greasy; others have said that the fog smells like China’s GDP is in the air. Though part of the problem is China’s reliance on coal, part of it is the cost of unrelenting economic growth based on heavy industry. Shutting down factories like this can only be a temporary fix. As Minxin Pei argued the other day, China’s leadership must not only insist on tighter environmental protection standards, but it must also work on having the country diversify out of polluting industries such as steel and automobile manufacture.Easier said than done, certainly, but wise advice nonetheless. Countries like China need not exactly retrace the steps of the West when technology is offering so many new paths to prosperity.