Just a week after Beijing’s major literally had his head saved, thanks to a cold front which swept away some of the worst pollution ever, the city has raised the alarm once again.. but this time to a record level. For the first time ever, the municipal government has issued a so-called red pollution alert – imposed car bans and suspending schools – after acrid-smelling haze returned to the Chinese capital.
– Beijing Citizens, Shrouded In Pollution, Flock To Giant Screens To View Artificial Sunrise (ZeroHedge, Jan 17, 2014)
– Northern China On Health Alert As Beijing Pollution “Off The Scale”, Surpassing “Hazardous” Levels (ZeroHedge, Jan 12, 2013):
Who would have thought that ultra-rapid industrialization, building entire empty cities to goalseek a supply-driven GDP number that has no reflection on demand reality, and ramming an entire country’s industrial output into overdrive without any concern for the environmental impact would have a disastrous effect on smog levels. Certainly not China. Which is why earlier today people across much of northern China were warned to stay indoors as the entire region was put on health alert to avoid air pollution that, in the Beijing area, was among the worst for a decade and possibly ever, is literally off the charts and has in many areas reduced visibility to under 50 metres.
– Beijing hit with frigid temperatures (UPI, Dec 24, 2012):
BEIJING — China is in a winter deep freeze this week with temperatures in some regions the coldest they’ve been in nearly 30 years, forecasters say.
A massive wild bird kill is reported from a Beijing suburb.
Dozens of dead blackbirds, mallards and magpies have been found along the banks of the Xiaojing River, according to the Huang’jiu Ribao newspaper.
A staff member of a centre for hygiene and epidemiological control does not rule out that the birds have died of starvation and unfavourable weather conditions.
A man walks on a pedestrian overpass on a hazy day at Beijing’s Central Business District, China, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. Beijing’s air, notorious for its pollution, soared above 500 on the air quality index on Friday, considered hazardous for all populations by U.S. standards. (AP)
BEIJING – Pollution in Beijing was so bad Friday the U.S. Embassy, which has been independently monitoring air quality, ran out of conventional adjectives to describe it, at one point saying it was “crazy bad.”
The embassy later deleted the phrase, saying it was an “incorrect” description and it would revise the language to use when the air quality index goes above 500, its highest point and a level considered hazardous for all people by U.S. standards.
The hazardous haze has forced schools to stop outdoor exercises, and health experts asked residents, especially those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children, to stay indoors.
“We’ve canceled 10 days worth of games since August,” said David Niven, chief operating officer of China ClubFootball, which runs extensive youth and adult football leagues in Beijing. “If the air is above 240, some of the schools will ask us to move football games indoors or cancel them altogether. Because of the bad air this year, we’ve had to cancel more games than ever before.”
High-pressure fragrance sprays will be installed at Asuwei dump, one of several hundred overflowing landfill sites that are the focus of growing public concern
Beijing is to install 100 deodorant guns at a stinking landfill site on the edge of the city in a bid to dampen complaints about the capital’s rubbish crisis.
The giant fragrance sprays will be put in place by May at the Asuwei dump site, one of several hundred tips that are the focus of growing public concerns about sanitation, environmental health and a runaway consumer culture.
Municipal authorities say they will also apply more plastic layers to cover the site in response to furious protests by local residents who have to put up with the stench when the wind blows in their direction.
The high-pressure guns, which can spray dozens of litres of fragrance per minute over a distance of up to 50m, are produced by several Chinese firms and based on German and Italian technology. They are already in use at several landfill sites, but they are merely a temporary fix.
Beijing’s waste problem – and China’s – is expanding as fast as its economy, at about 8% each year. With millions more people now able to afford Starbucks, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other elements of a western, throwaway lifestyle, the landfill sites and illegal tips that ring the capital are close to overflowing.
Beijing’s Financial Street on Feb. 4, 2010. (Bloomberg)
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — Jack Rodman, who has made a career of selling soured property loans from Los Angeles to Tokyo, sees a crash looming in China. He keeps a slide show on his computer of empty office buildings in Beijing, his home since 2002. The tally: 55, with another dozen candidates.
“I took these pictures to try to impress upon these people the massive amount of oversupply,” said Rodman, 63, president of Global Distressed Solutions LLC, which advises private equity and hedge funds on Chinese property and banking. Rodman figures about half of the city’s commercial space is vacant, more than was leased in Germany’s five biggest office markets in 2009.
Beijing’s office vacancy rate of 22.4 percent in the third quarter of last year was the ninth-highest of 103 markets tracked by CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., a real estate broker. Those figures don’t include many buildings about to open, such as the city’s tallest, the 6.6-billion yuan ($966 million) 74- story China World Tower 3.
Empty buildings are sprouting across China as companies with access to some of the $1.4 trillion in new loans last year build skyscrapers. Former Morgan Stanley chief Asia economist Andy Xie and hedge fund manager James Chanos say the country’s property market is in a bubble.
“There’s a monumental property bubble and fixed-asset investment bubble that China has underway right now,” Chanos said in a Jan. 25 Bloomberg Television interview. “And deflating that gently will be difficult at best.”
Farmers in Baoding face ruin from a man-made drought
THOUSANDS of Chinese farmers face ruin because their water has been cut off to guarantee supplies to the Olympics in Beijing, and officials are now trying to cover up a grotesque scandal of blunders, lies and repression.
In the capital, foreign dignitaries have admired millions of flowers in bloom and lush, well-watered greens around its famous sights. But just 90 minutes south by train, peasants are hacking at the dry earth as their crops wilt, their money runs out and the work of generations gives way to despair, debt and, in a few cases, suicide.
In between these two Chinas stands a cordon of roadblocks and hundreds of security agents deployed to make sure that the one never sees the other.
The water scandal is a parable of what can happen when a demanding global event is awarded to a poor agricultural nation run by a dictatorship; and the irony is that none of it has turned out to be necessary.
Excerpts from the long but excellent article:
“Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts.”
“The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.” The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon:”
“Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.”
“This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.”
“Here is a small sample of what the company (L-1) does: produces passports and passport cards for American citizens; takes finger scans of visitors to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security’s massive U.S.-Visit program; equips U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with “mobile iris and multimodal devices” so they can collect biometric data in the field; maintains the State Department’s “largest facial-recognition database system”; and produces driver’s licenses in Illinois, Montana and North Carolina. In addition, L-1 has an even more secretive intelligence unit called SpecTal. Asked by a Wall Street analyst to discuss, in “extremely general” terms, what the division was doing with contracts worth roughly $100 million, the company’s CEO would only say, “Stay tuned.””
“It is L-1’s deep integration with multiple U.S. government agencies that makes its dealings in China so interesting: It isn’t just L-1 that is potentially helping the Chinese police to nab political dissidents, it’s U.S. taxpayers. The technology that Yao purchased for just a few thousand dollars is the result of Defense Department research grants and contracts going as far back as 1994, when a young academic named Joseph Atick (the research director Fordyce consulted on L-1’s China dealings) taught a computer at Rockefeller University to recognize his face.”
Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn’t exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it – thanks to its location close to Hong Kong’s port – to be China’s first “special economic zone,” one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis.
The theory behind the experiment was that the “real” China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture – the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well.