Beijing Drowns In Cars

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Before this year ends, Beijing will have 4 million cars on the roads. Not to worry, says a city official, there is room for more.

Beijing’s car population reached 3.96 million last week, writes the state news agency Xinhua. The city adds 2100 new cars per day. At that rate, the 4m mark will be reached in 19 days.

The Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau said at a press conference yesterday that the city already has removed more than half of its 200,000 high-polluting vehicles from streets this year.

“This contributes to a reduction of 25 percent of the total car emissions in Beijing,” Li Kunsheng, director of the vehicle emission management division of the bureau said. What’s more, “this leaves more room for Beijing’s roaring car population.”

Some Beijingers beg to differ. After a long streak of clean air days, Beijing’s sky is covered by a layer of haze. The smell of coal fires and burned plastic is in the air. Twenty-five out of 28 of the city’s air pollution monitoring stations reported the air as “unhealthy,” Air quality statistics from the US Embassy in Beijing, using a stricter air pollution index method, gave a “very unhealthy” warning.

From my admittedly unscientific perspective, the rotten air has more to do with the winter heating season and the very cold weather which causes mostly coal fired power plants to run on full blast. A few weeks ago, Beijing had celebrated the best air quality in 11 years.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • 50merc 50merc on Nov 28, 2009

    Talk of China always seems to bring out a misanthropic streak in some folks. Get rid of humans, and the place would be fine! Well, whatever one thinks of population control, China will soon be experiencing the consequences of the one-child policy and sex-selective abortion. For one thing, it will be importing prostitutes from all over. OK, back to topic. B&B, how many people do you know who don't own a car only because the traffic is awful?

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Nov 29, 2009

    50merc: it's not misanthropy. it's the numbers. Can you imagine what it woudl be like in the US if the population were five times what it is? That's the density of China (the areas of both countries (excluding Alaska) are comparable). I certainly would not want to live in that country (China, or the US with 5x the population).

    The sex selection in china (and India, which has no one child policy) is certainly disastrous, although, hopefully it will help both countries begin to value women. It will help with the population problem, but in a way that will boost the misery index unacceptably imo.

  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Nov 29, 2009

    It's a pity it's not a more well known documentary, but I recommend "The Cars That Ate China".

  • Gimmeamanual Gimmeamanual on Nov 30, 2009

    I live in Shanghai... Canucklehead: Spot-on with the water. Closest place to Shanghai to go swimming in a lake without fear of a Total Recall-esque growth in Qiandao Hu, about a 5-hr ride. A lot of Chinese people are embarassed/pissed about how bad it is. To call Suzhou Creek disgusting would be a compliment, and it's better than it has been. Forty2: I don't think the air is that bad. It ain't no mountaintop in Colorado, but I don't find myself choking.