Beijing’s drivers can get off their anti-anxiety medication. Beijing’s government has decided that Beijingers can go forth and buy as many cars as they desire. Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform spokesperson Zhao Lei said that Beijing will not take administrative measures to restrain residents from buying automobiles, People’s Daily reports.
In October 2009, Liu Xiaoming, director of the Beijing municipal committee of communications had predicted that annual new car registrations will drop to 300,000 in the coming years, down from 400,000 currently. On hearing the pronouncement, panic set in amongst Beijing’s drivers. They feared, China’s capital could copy what Shanghai is doing. In Shanghai, there is only a set number of new license plates available (between 5000 and 6000 a month) and they are auctioned off. A plate costs more than a small car.
The remarks triggered a run on car dealerships. On December 18, 2009, the number of registered vehicles in Beijing exceeded 4m units. One in four Beijingers owns a car. There are 66 automobiles for every 100 households in Beijing, an absolute record in China. Across China, there are only some 60 cars per thousand people.
So how will Beijing deal with the unencumbered car buying and the resulting traffic congestion? With moderate measures: Beijing might raise the (ridiculously low) parking fees downtown, and will build more subways.