Beijing Anti-Smog Restrictions a Success– Before They Begin!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Today's the day. From Friday until Tuesday, the Chinese government has implemented a license plate-based ban on a third of Beijing's 3m drivers. Officials hope to remove over a million vehicles from the city as part of an "experiment" to see if they can clear Beijing's fetid air ahead of the '08 Olympics (without causing public unrest). As you might imagine, carbon negative governments around the world are monitoring the situation carefully, looking for justification for similar restrictions in their own backyards. Without casting aspersions of Iran's press freedoms, it's interesting that Press TV is so keen on the China's anti-car syndrome that they're not waiting to see if reality matches their expectations. "Beijing is noticeably less congested following the four-day scheme that yanked 1.3 million private cars off the streets on Friday." If you thought that was a particularly non-scientific (if perhaps prescient) summation, how about this? "City residents, who are being forced to take public transport during the test period, generally appeared to support the project." Support for government policy is generally good within dictatorships, but then Press TV probably already knows that.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Nyc Nyc on Aug 17, 2007

    Considering China is supposedly becoming more and more capitalist this is a huge step backwards? Why not a congestion charge? The laws of supply and demand should sort it out.

  • Stein X Leikanger Stein X Leikanger on Aug 17, 2007

    Interesting that there's a reference to Iran here. Years ago, during the regime of the Shah, I was in Teheran. The major avenue cutting through the city is miles long, and dips down from a high plateau towards the city center and onwards. Wide and multi-laned. If memory serves me there were eight lanes of traffic, and back then Iranians would individually interpret right of way rules. Iranian cars and trucks seemed to use fuel as if it was free, which it just about was. (Recently, the government has tried to increase the price of fuel, with predictable negative reactions from a public used to gasoline being cheaper than clean water.) I was a high-schooler back then, and attended the Community High School. We would play American football against teams from the Teheran American School. One day I was standing on the plateau, looking down the mega-boulevard. Thick, dark, belching smoke was rising from it, heated by the sun, shimmering and waving, so thick you lost sight of the end of the boulevard without resorting to a filmmakers zoom-lens to do the job. I had an epiphany. This was going on all over the world, and there would be more of it. And in underdeveloped countries they had cheap and dirty fuel, and drove a lot of diesels, two-stroke engines and engines that were incorrectly timed. And there was no way this could go on forever. 33 years later, and it's coming true, I guess.

  • Carlisimo Carlisimo on Aug 17, 2007

    nyc, capitalism means nothing more than entitling providers of capital to profits by companies working with that capital. It's totally independent of government type, and doesn't preclude China's single ruling party from doing whatever it feels like. In this case, the government feels that it needs to reduce congestion, doesn't need to make money off that, and wants everyone to have the chance to drive at least part of the week (ie not cutting all the poor drivers off - bad for the Chinese car economy, among other things).