The impressive thing about this story – from my conversations with Chinese friends here in Shanghai – is that many people respect the leader for admitting that the blue sky was an unfulfilled goal. Yes, it’s hard to be judged by international standards that were not used a hundred years ago when the UK, for example, had skies similar to armageddon. I wonder how long it will last, that people here have more hope that pollution will be tackled. Shanghai’s pm2.5 seems to be lower than it was two years ago, in my visual estimate. (I have not studied the data at all.) I am impressed, then, that Xi has managed to persuade some of society here that he understands the issue and intends to deal with it. It’s the first time I have seen and heard this in China.
This photo and quotation are from Week In China, a resource written by HSBC I now use in class here in Shanghai.
Thousands of factories have closed down during the summit period and there were no firecrackers at weddings, no fires at city food stalls and even no burning of paper flowers by grieving relatives for their dead.
The clean-up effort seemed to work. This year’s Beijing marathon may have been run in air quality 16 times worse than the World Health Organisation’s safety minimums. But leaders at the summit hotel on Yanqi Lake on the outskirts of the city woke up to skies that netizens were soon calling ‘APEC blue’.
Perhaps realising how the media was picking up on the phrase, Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned it during his speech at the summit dinner on Monday. “These days the first thing I do in the morning is check the air quality in Beijing hoping the smog won’t be too bad so that our distinguished guests will be more comfortable while you are here,” he told the audience. “Some people call the clear blue sky the APEC blue – beautiful but temporary and it will be gone after the APEC meeting. I hope and believe that with persistent efforts the APEC blue will be here to stay.”
The vast majority of locals are sceptical that the clearer conditions are going to last. And clarity wasn’t wholly forthcoming on a number of other issues at the summit, too.