Popular Topic: Beijing Pollution

March 8, 2013

On my infrequent trips to the U.S., I enjoy listening to folks talk about China. The fun is twofold: hearing the misconceptions and finding out what China issue has risen to a level where your average American is aware of it.

To determine what China issue is making the rounds usually requires several days, at least with the people I usually talk to. FYI, in the past it was usually lawyers, many of which came to Asia on an infrequent basis, if at all.

On this trip, it’s been mostly software guys and administrative/exec types. What makes this crowd different is that a very high percentage of them have to been to China recently, many within the past year. Moreover, since the company has a significant presence in China, the country never really drops off anyone’s radar screen.

So given all that, it took basically 1/2 of my first day to determine that the China story on everyone’s mind is . . . the air pollution in Beijing.

As a long-time Beijing resident, this actually made me a bit sad. The one thing that foreigners, and least the ones over here, are associating with the country, and the capital city I’ve lived in for so long, is the air quality. That’s a bummer.

I’ve been saying for a while now that I have confidence that the government will eventually solve this problem. In addition to the health problems, the image/PR problem is significant. Based on my experience over the past week, I think I underestimated the PR disaster that is Beijing’s air.

If officials begin to realize that folks in other countries are not talking about Beijing opera or duck or the Forbidden City, but rather coughing and air filters and such, perhaps that will spur some new government policy in this area.

I’m trying to find a silver lining here . . .