This week, a newly coined phrase is on every Beijinger’s lips: ‘APEC 蓝’ – literally ‘APEC blue’, meaning ‘APEC blue sky’. With more than a hint of irony, it refers to the blue skies artificially created by the government who, in a bid to hide the smog from the world leaders here for APEC, has shut down factories and other services and cut the number of cars on the road by half. I hear of parents bewildered that their kids are at home because their schools have been forced to close, of gleeful office workers who have been given days off, of frustrated drivers that are only allowed to drive their cars on alternate days. The result is a whole week when we can confidently predict clean air, clear skies, a dazzling sun and nice sunsets. In Beijing, there’s sunny, then there’s APEC sunny.
For me, it just means it’s been pleasant walking to work. I’m mildly freaked out witnessing firsthand the extent of the Chinese government’s practical thinking, efficiency and influence: ‘Must do away with smog. So we will stop everything that produces smog. Done. Next!’ But it’s also encouraging. China flaunts its rapid development with pride, but it’s apparently ashamed of some of the fallouts. This week, if nothing else, showed that China, once it puts its mind to it, Gets Things Done And Gets Results. Admittedly, clearing the smog forever is slightly harder than brushing it away for a week, but I hope their longer-term campaign is just as effective… and a little less brutal.
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