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The Chinese Got Used to Clean Air — Can They Make It Stay?

Now that the torch has been shelved for another four years and the birds' nest stadium is empty, Chinese residents are hoping to keep one benefit of the Games — increased air quality. During the Olympics, officials enacted strict measures to try to clear out the perpetually smoggy air, including limiting traffic and curbing factory production. The measures are set to stay in place until Sept. 20, and tons want them to stay longer than that.

At least 400,000 Chinese have joined online discussion groups to talk about how to keep the measures well beyond the Paralympics Games which kick off today. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed supported continuing the traffic restrictions which keep half of the vehicles off the road at any one time — better for the air and the traffic. Pollution is down by 50 percent, a 10-year record.

With ideas like keeping the special lanes created for the Olympics and turning them into mass transit lanes, is it possible that the will of the people will be heard? If the Chinese are willing to accept inconvenience for cleaner air, will economic factors persuade the government to go back to business as smoggy usual?


Join The Conversation
tiabia tiabia 8 years
I agree with Jude C. Discussions against Chinese Government are rarely (if ever) given time to blossom, and those ideas are hardly ever enacted. I will be highly impressed if China does stick with it's Olympic measures.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 8 years
There was an interesting Reuters article the other day that gave me some food for thought regarding China's recent history and economic shifts and how in some ways (including this one regarding pollution) China's evolution parallel's Japan's from a largely agricultural society to a booming industrial and technical one. While Japan faced its pollution crisis decades ago, China faces hers now. Of course not everything is similar - the governments are vastly different, and Japan's 1980's economic and technological prowess (which for awhile terrified Americans as they seemed to dominate everything from cars to Las Vegas hotel ownership) will probably take China decades longer to achieve. Moreover, while Japan was disinclined to welcome foreign investment and companies, China actually has done so more robustly. Finally, perhaps one of the biggest differences in my mind was not mentioned - sheer geography. With its size, demographic layout and terrain alone, China will have her own issues to face, such as droughts that farmers currently are facing, which was heightened by the water diverted into Beijing to help with the building and "greening" of the city. The best thing of the Olympics will hopefully be that the people see that it IS possible to live in a cleaner city, that it IS possible to see change. Will the Chinese government keep it up when the cameras are no longer looking? I hope so, I really do.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i agree with that thought but i also think that they realize that china is going to be a hotter tourist local since people will want to see where the games were. if the quality of air and traffic were better - then there's a likelihood that more money would flow into country - and that's something that they should think about.
justanerd1975 justanerd1975 8 years
I'm with Jude C, there's next to no chance they'll suddenly put air quality/the environment over economy...
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Yeah, and we all know how well being Chinese and going on the Internet to discuss dissatisfactions with the Chinese government works...I'm just waiting for whichever discussion boards these are to get shut down ;) On a more serious note, unfortunately the Chinese government often does these temporary improvements to impress foreigners when there's something major happening. I'll be surprised and impressed if they do decide to extend the policy.
dreamsugar dreamsugar 8 years
I really hope so. For this to just be a passing phase for a special occasion -- that's just sad. Still it's remarkable how fast they can clear it up -- makes you think.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
lol, eeewww.
serial serial 8 years
I sure hope so! I visited Beijing around 2004, and I absolutely hated it largely because of the air quality. I was there during the early spring so it was still cold and arid, and my lips were chapped and bleeding, but I was also sneezing out and coughing up black gunk every night back in the hotel. A little too much information, I know, but it was a real downer on my trip.
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